“Besides, the English Don’t Like Women Much Anyway”—on Voltaire, Van Gogh, and Darwin
With Regard to Religion, if You Know What You’re Talking About, You’re Biased.

A Review of the Jack London Short Story ‘Moon Face’—They’re Always Throwing Goodness at You, but With a Little Bit of Luck a Man Can Duck.

Sometimes—a certain person is so consistently annoying that you just feel you have no choice but to bump him off. Of course, you don’t do that—it’s not right. The rules don’t allow for it. You make your mind over, like the Word says, and you learn to think of the other person as superior to you—also what the Bible says at Phillipians 2:3. You look for the one area—there has to be at least one—in which he or she clearly is superior and then you hone in on that quality like a laser beam. It really does work when applied.

But—in the words of Alfred P. Doolittle: “They’re always throwing goodness at you. But with a little bit of luck a man can duck!” What if you could duck?

Enter Jack London, the writer. If there is one thing about London’s work that sticks with the reader, it is his portrayal of natures’ unforgiving harshness. Make a mistake, and you will pay for it with your life. The trait of mercy does not exist in his novels. Who can forget his short story ‘To Build a Fire’ in which the sub-zero Alaskan wanderer’s life depends upon his building a fire—and how he at last gets one going, searing his numb and frozen fingers which were beyond handling individual matches so he could only light the whole box at once—somehow clenching it in his teeth, if memory serves (it may not), and then he holds it in place amidst the storm, holding it as long as he must—smelling his burning flesh—because if this fire fails to take hold he will freeze to death for sure.

It does take hold. He adds wood to it—more and more—the fire begins to roar—its heat begins to thaw him and he feels he has beat nature—he will survive after all. And then—the snow in the boughs of the tree he had foolishly built his fire under—yes, it had sheltered him from the wind, but it would also spell his doom—loosens with the heat and comes crashing down, snuffing out his fire in an instant—after which he runs off into the wilds and freezes to death.

That is a Jack London story. They are all like that—stark and unforgiving—at least the ones I remember. Many are set in the gold-rush days.

Could Jack London write a comedic short story? No way. Inconceivable. And yet there is one—only one, so far as I know—and it is all the more comedic because it incorporates his standard themes of hardness and absolutely no mercy. Can you really write a comedy from that?

London’s protagonist has a neighbor that he cannot stand for his incessant optimism and good cheer. Even his face and surname grates on his nerves. His booming laugh—no matter what atrocious thing has happened (and the protagonist knows, because he deliberately causes some just so to wipe this inane smile off his face—setting fire to his barn, for example, and causing his house to be foreclosed on) drives London’s character into rabid fury, and he finally reaches the point where he cannot live until that idiot dies! (I can think of a person now—a non-JW—who has that effect on me) He devises the most clever and untraceable scheme to do him in—which does succeed.

Were it any other novelist, the story would end with his apprehension by the long arm of the law—that, or the crushing torment of his conscience. But this is a Jack London story. It concludes with: “My days are peaceful now, and my night's sleep deep.” It is a very short read—not too taxing and entertaining throughout, You should go there.

 

Sigh—you can’t bump them off like that. They’re always throwing goodness at you, and you can’t duck. You keep stripping off the old personality and keep putting on the new. You do become a better person for it. But you sure do have to endure some pieces of work along the way.

The daily text yesterday was “Show yourselves thankful,” from Colossians 3:15. The commentary included mention of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus and yet only one turned back to give thanks. “Its good to develop a thankful attitude,” was my contribution to the Zoom group. Even when life sucks, see if you can’t look at ways in which the glass is half-full rather than ways in which it is half (or almost all)-empty. It’s healthier to do it that way.

Always rejoice! Always be thankful! Always be...but one can go too far. One can become like one of those plastic weighted clowns that you knock down, but then it bobs up again, it’s grinning face bobbing into yours.

After that thought, I recalled that Jack London story I read decades ago and never forgot. I had misremembered it as ‘Moonbeam’ whereas it was actually ‘Moon Face,’ but AI search had enough to go on and promptly pulled up the story for me.

You know, true to the daily text, Moon Face’s eternal optimism did serve him well emotionally. Unfortunately, it also drove his neighbor, Jack’s friend, to kill him—and then proclaim: “No more does his infernal laugh go echoing among the hills, and no more does his fat moon-face rise up to vex me.”

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.