5 13 14 What Life Means to me by O998zF0H


									                               A New English Course (Book 5)
                              Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me

Unit 13-14                       What Life Means to Me (Part I)

I.        Teaching objectives
       1. Appreciating Jack London and his works.
       2. Learning to analyze and criticize literary works
       3. Understanding the use of figurative language.

II.       Warm-up questions
       1. Have you ever read any works by Jack London? Which one impressed you
          the most? Why? Share your ideas with others.
       2. Do you find any special characteristics about the heroes created by Jack
          London in his fiction world?
       3. How much do you know about Jack London, as a social being and as a man of
          letter? How has he been evaluated in the mainstream of the American

III.      About the author

Jack London (1876-1916)

Jack London was born in San Francisco, California on January December 1876. He
passed his childhood in extreme poverty. Before he was ten years old, he had to work
before and after school and on weekends in order to provide food for the family. At
the early age of thirteen, instead of going on to high school, he took a job in a cannery
for ten cents an hour on a ten-hour shift. At fifteen, he was the captain of an
oyster-pirate boat. This was followed by employment as an officer of the Fish Patrol
to guard the same waters he had pillaged. Disgusted at the corruption of the officials,
he went off to sea as a sailor. By the time he returned to San Francisco from his
seal-hunting voyage to Siberia, the only work he could find was in a jute mill. From
there he went to work at a power plant, determined to learn a trade. There he shoveled
coal thirteen hours a day, twenty-nine days a month, for thirty dollars a month. He
“formulated a gospel of work” and hoped to rise to the top by practicing it. Learning
that he had unknowingly taken the jobs of two workers, one of whom had killed
himself, London quit and became a tramp.

Having seen the social scrap heap where all manual workers found themselves
ultimately when their muscles wore out, London resolved to cultivate his brain. He
had learned of Karl Marx and of the existence of a world-wide socialist movement.
Soon afterward he read The Communist Manifesto, from it obtained his fundamental
concepts of class struggle and socialist revolution. He became a staunch unionist and

He read prodigiously to broaden his knowledge and to acquire a working philosophy,

                             A New English Course (Book 5)
                            Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
which he thought to be essential to his writing. Aside from his fundamental concepts
of Marxism, his thinking also came under the influences of Nietzsche’s doctrines of
the world-conquering superman and of white supremacy, and of Herbert Spencer’s
application to human society of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and survival of
the fittest. The conflicting impacts of these ideologies make his work a mass of
contradictions in spite of his efforts to reconcile them.

His language is often a mixture of the everyday vocabulary of the ordinary man and
“learned words” that he gathered from his extensive reading. The force, vividness and
imagination with which he made use of the American language have been emulated
by journalists of the sensational press.

His works include:

The White Silence (1899)
The Call of the Wild (1903)
The People of the Abyss (1903)
The Sea Wolf (1904)
The War of the Classes (1905)
The Iron Heel (1908)
Martin Eden (1909)
    (The novel is regarded as one of his most interesting works. It describes the
    struggles of the protagonist, a sailor and labourer, to acquire education and to
    become a writer, inspired partly by his love for Ruth Morse, a girl of education
    and what appears to him to be refinement; he succeeds, spectacularly, only to find
    himself disillusioned with her and the world he has entered, and he drowns
    himself on the way to the South Seas. The fate of the hero seems to foretell that
    of Jack London, and in this sense the novel is almost semi-biographical.)

John Barleycorn, also semi-biographical, is a record of London’s own struggle against

Some chronological notes on Jack London

       born in San Francisco
       son of an itinerant astrologer and a spiritual mother
       took the name of his stepfather
       grew up in poverty, scratching a living in various legal and illegal
        ways—robbing the oyster beds, working in a canning factory and a jute mill
       his various experience providing the material for his works and making him a
        socialist, attacking capitalism and exploitation with great vigor
       maintaining some markedly chauvinist and racist attitudes
       living a short but intensely active life (producing fifty books in seventy years)
       writing reflecting combined influences from Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche.

                             A New English Course (Book 5)
                            Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me

IV. Organization of the text

1. Analysis of the text

The text is an autobiographical description of Jack London’s quest for the meaning
of life;the frustration and disillusionment he experienced in the process of finding
out the meaning of life; and his ideological transformation.

The change in his outlook was drastic, but the path has been long and devious

For a better understanding of the text, we may trace chronologically the life
experiences of J. London and see how he understood the meaning of life at different
stages of his life:

    A naive child                      Anxious to climb up into the upper society
                                       (having enthusiasm, ambition, ideals;
                                       cherishing romantic ideas about upper class )
    Newsboy (at 10)                    climbing the fist rung of “business ladder”
    Oyster pirate (16)                 believing in the law of the jungle;
    A hard laborer(muscle seller)      game of capitalism; the survival of the fittest
                                       (cruelly exploited)
    A tramp, beggar (at 18)            slipping back the rung of ladder,
                                       (down in the cellar, beneath the point at which
                                       he had started)
    Be scared into thinking            realizing the truth of “commodities” in society
                                       “muscle seller” vs “brain vendor”
    A knowledge pursuer                determined to become a brain vendor
    A successful writer                disillusioned with the upper class:
                                       - materialism
            ↓                          - hypocrisy
                                       - callousness (moral paralysis )
                                       - intellectually ignorance
                                       - corruption
    A determined socialist             with a proletarian outlook
                                        resolving to topple over the society he had
                                        once been so eager to enter

                              A New English Course (Book 5)
                             Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me

2. Comprehension questions

1) How did London describe the poor living conditions of those who are at the
   bottom of the society? What adjectives are used?
    my environment was crude, rough, and raw
    (my life) offered nothing but sordidness and wretchedness (sordid and
       wretched environment)

2) How did London perceive the life of the upper class” (i.e his vision of the
   upper society London cherished in his early childhood) (para 2) What
   adjectives are used? (fine, noble, gracious, decent and dignified)
     material life: abundant
       a. men /women decently dressed
       b. having plenty to eat, good things to eat
     spiritual life: noble
       a. selfless
       b. noble
       c. refined

3) How would you comment on London’s ideas of the poor and the rich? How
   did London come to have such unrealistic, romantic ideas of the social
   realities? (illusions)
     from reading fiction “Seaside Library novels”

4) What did London resolve to do so as to free himself from the oppression of
   the society, to rise out of the bottom of the society?
     “climb into this edifice” – becoming one of the members in the upper class

5) There are several things that London tried in his efforts to get rich. What
   efforts has his made? What are the decisions he made at various stage of his
    a) To save money by working hard and leading a simple life. (He calculated that
        he could have saved enough money by 50, then he could enjoy a secure old
        age. (not to get married, neglecting the possibility of falling ill)
    b) To become a newsboy (at ten). He found himself unsatisfied with living a
        scarcely sufficient life. He needed more than bare necessities of life. He
        realized that by doing business, he could earn more easy money.
    c) To take the business ladder, to become businessman (para 4)
    d) To take to pirating By sixteen, the dream of becoming a successful
        businessman had been shattered. London took to pirating, becoming the
        “prince of the Oyster Pirates”.( to “climb the first rung of the business ladder”,
        becoming a “capitalist”, having a crew of one man (para 5 – 7)
    e) To slip back the one rung he had climbed (para 6- 7)

                              A New English Course (Book 5)
                             Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
    f) To take odd jobs, (as sailor, longshoreman, roustabout, worker, cleaner, etc.)
       cruelly exploited by capitalists (para 8)
    g) Employed as electrician (cruelly exploited,’ worked to death”).
    h) Sickened and quit the job
    i) Reduced to a tramp, beggar, at 18, falling “beneath the point at which I had
       started”, “down in the cellar of society”
    j) Scared back into thinking (para 13), determined not to sell muscle, but to
       become a vender of brains

6) At the age of 18, London was reduced to a tramp, a beggar, after all his efforts in
   the previous years. Read paragraph 12, and note how London describes the world
   of the poor at the very bottom of the society. Comment on the effect of using such
   words as “cellar of society, subterranean depths of misery, pit, abyss, cesspool,
   shambles, charnel-house,”
     subterranean (exiting, occurring, or done under the earth’s surface)
     pit, abyss (bottomless chasm, a catastrophic situation)
     the human cesspool (an underground container for temporary storage of liquid,
        water, 2) a center of corruption ,污水池,藏污纳垢之地
     charnel-house 尸骨存放地

7) In several places, London elaborates on the concept of “capitalism” and
   “socialism”. Read the observation and comment on London’s tone. (sarcastic,
   bitter, self mocking)
     (para 5) himself as “capitalist” “exploiting” his crew”
     “(para 6) comparing capitalists as robbers, capitalism as robbery, the
        hypocrisy of capitalists (i.e. Capitalists are virtually robbers, though they did
        not always rob with a gun.)
     The bare reality of commercial relation exists everywhere. Life is a process of
        “selling and buying”. “All things were commodities”

8) London is a naturalist, believing in the power of the superman, the law of the
   jungle. What traits of naturalism can we perceive from London’s narration?
     “survival of the fittest” (para 9), “I didn’t resent this. It was all in the game.
       They were the strong.”
     “life is a matter of food and shelter.” (para 13)

9) One feature of the text is the use of metaphorical expressions. Identify them and
   comment on the usage.
    a) comparing society to an edifice, and the class division of a society to the
       construction structure of a building:
         Above me towered the colossal edifice of society
         cellar of society
         parlor floor of society (the best floor, where the sitting room is located)
         attic

                              A New English Course (Book 5)
                             Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
    b) Comparing his attempt to rise in the society to climbing on a ladder
     Into this edifice I early resolved to climb (Line 8)
     I was hard put to find the ladder whereby to climb (Line 21)
     But the ladder whereby to climb was a different one. It was now the ladder of
       business (Line.35)
     This one rung was the height I climbed up the business ladder” (Line 48)
     I had slipped back the one rung I had climbed, and never again did I attempt
       the business ladder. (Line 63)

V. Language points
1. remunerate (fml)
     to reward; to pay someone for work or trouble 补偿,
     remuneration : 待遇,报酬

2. be hard put to do something; to find it difficult to do something, e.g.
    - You’d be hard put to find water in a desert.

3. a meager existence of scraping and scrimping 勉强度日
     Scrape (+by, along, through): to live with only just enough money, e.g.
     - to scrape by on very small wages, 靠一点工资勉强维持生活
     “scrimp and save” save slowly and with difficulty 节俭, e.g.
     - She had to scrimp and save to pay for her trip.

4. rebate n. a return of part of a payment 折扣, 回扣
          (c.f. discount: to reduce the price of: 降价,打折)
          - a rebate of tax 退税
          - an export rebate 出口回扣
          - The company is offering a $500 rebate if you buy a new car

5. be wont to: be liable, likely, inclined to, e.g.
        - be wont to do something 习惯做某事

6.forsooth (archaic or joc.) truly, for truth, no doubt, indeed,(often to imply contempt)

7. to carve (out) one’s way , to carve a way: 开辟道路

8. to pitch in (inf): to begin or join an activity such as un attack or meal, e.g.
          - If everyone pitches in, we’ll soon have the job finished.
          - He would never pass a street fight without pitching in.

9. disincline sb toward: be unwilling to do something

10. at one’s prime: to be at the time when one is the strongest and most active

                               A New English Course (Book 5)
                              Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
11. replenish: to fill sth again or put new supplies into sth, e.g.
         - to replenish a petrol –tank with gasoline

12. put up the shutters: :to close a business at the end of the day or permanently, e.g.
         - The shop put up the shutters very early.

13. vender=vendor: sb who sells things
        - streets venders

14. colossal: : extremely largely, e.g.
         - a colossal status

15. edifice: a building, especially a large one, e.g.
         - Their head office was an imposing edifice in Millbank .

VI. Questions for discussion
             1. What life means to Jack London at his early time?
             2. Can you guess the ultimate outcome of Jack London’s aspiration of
                climbing up? Discuss with your partners.

                               A New English Course (Book 5)
                              Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me

                   What Life Means to Me (Part II)

I.     Warm-up questions
               1. Do you think London, as a vender of brains, will find satisfaction
                  with his career success? Why or why not?
               2. In what way is London a “socialist” or a “revolutionist”? How did
                  London understand “socialism” and “revolution”? How do you
                  understand the concepts?
               3. Why did London get disillusioned after he was able to enter the
                  “portals” of society and to secure a place on the parlour floor? What
                  are the things that disillusioned him?
               4. What is the message that London tried to convey to us? Do you agree
                  with London’s interpretation of the meaning of life? Why or Why

IV. Organization of the text

Section I                                                         paragraph 1-4

           Early delights and enthusiasm over the intellectual living

Section II                                                        paragraph 5- 11

           Disillusionment with upper class (on the parlor floor of society)

Section III                                                       paragraph 12-15

           Getting out of disillusionment to reach a new realm

Analysis of each section

Questions for Section I:

     1. How does London understand the concept “socialists” and “revolution”? (para

     2. How did London feel when he first “came into intellectual living”? (para 2- 3)
         What adjectives will you use to describe London’s feeling?

     3. How did London depict the people he met there? How would you comment on

                             A New English Course (Book 5)
                            Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
     the people categorized by London?(gifted, non-conformists)
           a) keen-flashing intellects and brilliant wits
           b) strong ,alert-brained members of the working class
           c) unfrocked preachers (too broad-minded for the terrestrial to follow)
           d) professors broken and flung out

 4. In his early enthusiasm over and delight in the life at the parlor floor of the
     society, what virtues (fine qualities) did London associate with the upper class?
              warm human faith (faith in human excellence, optimistic)
              idealism (vs. utilitarianism, perfect, but impractical)
              unselfishness (dedicated, ready to sacrifice personal interest)
              self-denial, asceticism,
              martyrdom (ready to scarify even life for justice)
              nobleness of purpose, heroism of efforts (noble-minded,

Questions for Section II:

About London’s disillusionment with upper class ladies:

1. What shocked London most when he got to know those beautifully dressed ladies
   of the upper class? (pa 5-7)
     materialism (their endless materialist pursuit)

2. How did London criticize the materialism in upper class ladies? What satire is
             While mouthing “sweet little ideals”, “dear little moralities”, they
              continue to enjoy their luxurious life. What they are concerned about
              is materialist wealth.
             “sentimentally selfish”: While they “assist in all kinds of sweet little
              charities, :they have no regret or guilt in exploiting cheep labor in
              satisfying their materialist pursuit.

About London’s disillusionment with upper class gentlemen:

1. What did London expect of the masters of the upper class”?
    “clean, noble and alive” (uncorrupted, honest, upright with sense of justice)

2. Through his contacts with upper class gentlemen, such as preachers, politicians,
   business men, professors, editors (well representing a cross section of the upper
   class ), what did London find out about them?
         Many were “clean noble” but few “alive” (The majority did not have a
             hand in brutal or immoral practice, but few had the courage/intention to
             change status quo ) (moral paralysis)

                             A New English Course (Book 5)
                            Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
3. Comment on London’s bitter criticism (in line 60” “Where they were not alive
   with rottenness, quick with unclean life, they were merely the unburied dead” (行
   尸走肉, mentally paralytic)

4. How did London criticize the professors he met? (l 63) (“men who live up to that
   decadent university ideal, ‘the passionless pursuit of passionless intelligence” i.e.
   迂腐, without enthusiasm, vitality and creativity)

5. Where can you find London’s criticism on the hypocrisy of those “upper class
   masters”? ((para 8) What bitter contrasts are shown? What sarcasm can you see?
        While mouthing peace, condemning war in the name of God, they
            supply weapons to police, detectives to put down strikes
        While condemning violence, they are ruthless in scrambling for profits.
            They have no regret in adulterating food with unhealthy things in their
            effort to make money.
       ( Men who appeared to be peace-lover but at the same time were not hesitant
       to resort to force to suppress the strikers; men who seemed not able to
       tolerate the brutality of boxing but at the same time profited by
       manufacturing and selling unhealthy food for children. The contrasts
       between the seemingly incompatible practices bring out the hypocritical
       nature of these men)

6. What is the major criticism London intended in paragraph 9?
     those “captain of industry” (industrial tycoons 大亨), they are ,
         - intellectually ignorant, living a barren intellectual life 才识短浅
         - scrupulously shrewd 赚钱精明
         - immoral in doing business (不道德)
7. Read paragraph 10 to 11, envision the characters London depicts as though they
   were characters in a play, walking across the stage one after another Explain the
   traits/features of each character. Take note of the discrepancy involved. Make
   sure the point of satire/criticism in each figure.

      a)     this gentleman: decent, & honest looking, yet wicked at the bottom of
             the heart, who is responsible for adulteration, for exploitation of cheap
             labour, for causing deaths to men
      b)     this gentleman: while purporting to be a literature-lover (i.e. admiring
             pure, high-browed stuff), was involved in dishonest (secret, dirty) deals
             with the political group. (bribing them for ulterior motives)
      c)     this editor: while advertising, hid truth from the public to secure his
      d)     this senator, Governor, supreme court judge;: (all civil servants, are
             corrupted tools, slaves and puppets to business tycoons; accepting
             privilege offered by the wealthy business class, taking advantage of their

                            A New English Course (Book 5)
                           Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
      e)    This man (3 time):while making donations to charities, promoting
            education and other good-willed ventures, humanitarian acts,
            nevertheless have been cruel in their pursuit of material wealth. Under
            the disguise of their benevolence lies the evil of dishonesty and cruelty.
            They are indeed “wolves in sheep’s clothing’

Question for Section III

    1. Read the first sentence of paragraph 12, explain its logical function. (a clear
       indication of generalization)
    2. What did London finally resolve to do? (to go back to the working class) Why
       (He was totally disillusioned. He had finally discovered that the upper class
       was far from clean and noble. Instead, it was rotten and filthy. So he resolved
       to go back to where he really belonged to and to build a new society out of the
       material of the old.)
    3. How would you comment on the figurative use of “edifice” once again in the
       end? What stylistic effect has been achieved?

V. Language points

1. inasmuch as : conj. (fml) owing to the fact that, because. e’g’
      Their father is also guilty, inasmuch as he knew what they were going to do.

2. unfrock = defrock : deprive a priest of ecclesiastical status 剥夺圣职

3. to break sb. on the wheel of 用刑车处死某人(新英汉)
     (figurative used in the text)

4. be flung out (fling):: to make sb. leave because of a fault: 被赶出去
      Two members were flung out of the club for failing to pay the money they
      The old lady was flung out of the house because the owner wanted to pull it
5. all fire and dew: fresh and enthusiastic
      pure and fresh as dews
      a lad in the dew of his youth 朝气蓬勃的小伙子

6. prattle (+ on, about): to talk meaninglessly or lightly in a childish way, 夸夸其
    -- He prattled on about his job. (说个没停)

                               A New English Course (Book 5)
                              Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me
7. read sb a lesson/ lecture : 训斥某人           --- read me preachments about

8. acquiesce in: agree, esp. tacitly 默许

9..subservient: less important than sth else . e.g
      Your own needs must subservient to those of the group.

10. renunciation: a decision not to keep a particular set of beliefs, way of life ,power
or object

11. rehabilitate: to help sb to live a healthy ,useful or active life again after they have
been seriously ill or in prison a special unit for rehabilitating stroke patients.

12. exalt :to put sb or sth into a high rank or position . e.g
      be exalted to the position of manager

13. innate: having sth when sb was born . e.g
     -- innate kindness

14. intemperate: not having enough control over the feeling so as to behave in a way
that is unacceptable to other people e.g
      an intemperate outburst

15. invoke :to use a law, principle or theory to support one’s view.行使法权,实行 e.g
      to invoke the veto in disputes 在辩论中行使否决权
      to invoke economic sanction 实行经济制裁
      to invoke new problems 引起新问题
      to invoke sb’s help. 恳求某人帮助

16. diatribe: a long speech or piece of writing that criticizes sb or sth very severely
     a diatribe against contemporary American civilization

17. adulterate :to make food or drink less pure by adding another substance of lower
quality to it adulterate wine with water.

18. demagogue: sb who gives political speeches that try to persuade people by using
emotional language rather that reason .

19. perjure oneself :to tell a lie after promising to tell the truth in a court of law.

20. decadent: having low moral standards and being more concerned with one’s own
pleasure than serious matters e.g
     Pop music was condemned as decadent and crude.

                          A New English Course (Book 5)
                         Unit 13-14: What Life Means to Me

VI. Questions for discussion to conclude the course

1. What is your opinion of the throw-away mentality in contemporary society?
2. What is your view on the obligations of news reporters? Is it possible for a
   journalist to be both human and professional? How?
3. Do your regard as unfortunate those people who can command everything they
   want? Why or why not? To what extent do you agree with Churchill in this
4. Do you have a writer to whom you have owed a heavy debt in your life? How
   have you been influenced? Tell your experience.
5. Can you conclude what life meant to Jack London? Have you ever thought over
   this philosophical issue? What life means to you?
6. How do you appreciate London’s observation that “I retain my belief in the
   nobility and excellence of the human. I believe that spiritual sweetness and
   unselfishness will conquer the gross gluttony of today.”


To top