By Eric Homberger
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Additional info for American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900–39: Equivocal Commitments
The truth, finally made clear, shocked me deeply, and played a great part in the making of my political revolt. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty I explored the situation in N ew York, and made discoveries that for me were epoch-making. The saloonkeeper, who had been the villain of my childhood melodrama, was merely a tool and victim of the big liquor interests and politicians and police. The twin bases of the political power of Tammany Hall were saloon graft and the sale of women. So it was that, in my young soul, love for my father and love for my mother were transmuted into political rage, and I sallied forth at the age of twenty, a young reformer armed for battle.
The first changes Jurgis and Ona from healthy, optimistic young immigrants into degraded 'beasts' destroyed by their work. The second phase begins after the death of Ona. Jurgis's picaresque career takes him from the life of an ex-convict and fertilizer worker to his later experiences as a smart thief, poli6cal operator and labour scab. He is saved from this corrupting life by the discovery of so jalism. For Sinclair, socialism was embodied in the liberation and transformation of human nature. Solidarity was the goal of socialism, not its prerequisite.
He has come unstuck in the class system; more significantly, his naive idealism has been undermined. The shrines where he worshipped - Ruth and culture - have been emptied of their meaning. Eden has nothing to put in their place: hence his suicide. His fate was implicit in his individualism. ' 49 Eden's fate seemed to justify London's politics: 'I am not an individualist', he wrote to Professor Philo M. Buck, Jr in 1912. 'Sea-Wolf, Martin Eden, Burning Daylight, were 32 American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900-39 written as indictments of individualism.
American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900–39: Equivocal Commitments by Eric Homberger