The Law of Life by Jack London
In The Law of Life by Jack London we have the theme of acceptance, mortality, connection, tradition, loneliness, struggle and selfishness. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that London may be exploring the theme of acceptance. Koskoosh appears to be accepting of the fact that he is going to die. He has been abandoned by his tribe due to the fact that he is old and unable to keep up with them. If anything Koskoosh seems to accept that with old age comes decline and as such he must fall away from others just as his forefathers have. Koskoosh’s reminiscing about those who came before him and his memory when it comes to Zing-ha may also be important as it is possible that Koskoosh is fully conscious that he has a connection with his past. Zing-ha is also an important character as he could symbolise youth and fertility to Koskoosh. Both were young men when they hunted the moose and were successful. Today Koskoosh’s hunting days are behind him and he must fend for himself. If anything the trigger for Koskoosh’s memories may be the fact that he is lonely and knows that he is going to die. Though near death he is still trying to make a connection with life even if he considers that life may not necessarily care for him.
The fire that Koskoosh sits beside may also have some symbolical significance as London could be using the fire to symbolise life. When the fire is lighting Koskoosh is alive and when it is extinguished he dies. It is also interesting that Koskoosh’s son is prepared to leave his father to die. Interesting because he is following the traditions of the tribe. Rather than an individual being a burden on the tribe. They are cast aside to die. Allowing for the cycle of life to continue. Which may be the role that Koskoosh’s grand-daughter plays. She is of a new generation and Koskoosh does not like her. He considers her to be careless because she only carried a limited amount of fire wood for Koskoosh. If anything Koskoosh may consider her to be selfish. Though he himself is guilty of selfishness having followed the traditions of the tribe when he was chief and allowed for others to be abandoned and to fend for themselves.
In many ways London may be highlighting how difficult or tough following tradition can be for the tribe. There is no room for romance or misgivings. Rather the tribe must come first in order for it to survive. The role women play in the story might also be important. Women appear to be domesticated with no life outside the family. They even appear to have little choice in the man they are to settle down with. With the men making all the decisions. If anything the females in the story may symbolise the difficulties and hardship that comes with life. Yet Koskoosh is unable to see this. He does not recognise that women in the tribe may struggle just as the men in the tribe do. It would be harder for a woman to be abandoned and left to fend for herself then it would be for the men in the tribe. Though Koskoosh is old he is not frail. He still has the ability to think and hear everything around him. Preparing himself for what might come. A woman in the tribe would not have this advantage.
In reality London could be suggesting that regardless of the individual. Everyone must face death and each person may have a different way of doing so. Koskoosh takes the easiest approach and is accepting of the position he finds himself in. Knowing that his time has come even if it is to be at the hands of a pack of wolves. The fact that the piece of firewood is extinguished at the end of the story may be London’s way of pointing out the futility of fighting for one’s life. When a person’s time has come there is very little if anything that they can do. Life is bigger than the individual and as such the individual will always have to submit. Regardless of how they may feel about it. Death may not be something that one can fight against. A matter which the tribe fully understands and as such has left Koskoosh to fend for himself. The legacy of the tribe is what matters the most and this may be the reason as to why the word ‘episodes’ is used to describe an individual’s life. Life is a journey that everyone will make. What is uncertain is to when one will die. However it is inevitable that death will win out in the end.