Monday, February 16, 2009

The Floppy Disc Chronicles Part II - Martin Eden

So, in going through more of my old papers, I came across this gem; a paper I wrote on Jack London's Martin Eden. It's not actually an interesting paper, especially if you aren't familiar with the book. But there's a great story behind this paper, and if John Coffey (Coffee? Whatever. He was a great professor.) is reading this, I apologize, but I fooled you.

See, I never read the whole book. I know this is probably not a new thing for college students, but I found it terribly depressing and I was going through some weird shit at the time myself (the date: 11/27/95), so "terribly depressing" novels weren't really anything I wanted to immerse myself in. Thus, I decided to read the beginning, and then the end. The end sees Martin Eden, after seriously the WORST LIFE EVER, throw himself overboard and drown. Not very uplifting, but I was pretty uplifted that I figured that out before I started writing the paper. Upon returning our writings, John Coffey/Coffee let us know that he could tell who actually read the book and who didn't and graded accordingly. Those who found the ending of the book to be "inspiring," were given a lower grade, as they obviously did not read the book to its conclusion. I don't remember my exact grade, but I remember doing well and getting a pretty good grade in the class. So, my advice to all the students out there? If you're gonna cheat, win!

And to my loyal readers, I give you "The Garden of Eden," a short paper I wrote after reading half (if that) of the book. By the by, be sure to take note of how down-trodden I really was in late 1995, my diabetes year. You think I'm a dick now...



The life of a man named Martin Eden came full circle. At the beginning of the story, Martin Eden was a young, surly, man of the sea, a man with little culture and education, except for what life had taught him. Then, he met a woman.

There are not too many things in this world that will change a man's life, but one of them is certainly a woman. Martin became enraptured by Ruth so much that he attempted every method he could think of to better himself and bring himself up to her level. Although, most men refuse to admit it, we would all do the same if we were put in Martin's shoes. Love has a way of blinding people that way.

Martin began reading and writing, hoping that he could win Ruth's heart by having something in common with her. He changed who he was in order to win the love of a woman. It is essentially the classic formula of a star-crossed romance. Very few people can say that they have not been through something like this at least once in their lives.

Truly, there is a piece of Martin Eden in every man. We struggle to achieve our goals, whether those goals are love, wealth, fame, success, or just making it through every day without killing ourselves. We battle to win the game of life, and it is a difficult battle because life is a hard game to win. It takes persistence and patience at the same time. Once we finally reach the pinnacle and achieve our goal, then we realize that old truism "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," even in the Garden of Eden.

Happiness is fleeting for Martin Eden. By the end of the story, even though he is getting mail from publishers and editors, Martin has grown so cold and cynical that he has developed a deep disliking for people. In a way, he had won the game of life, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. This is the Martin Eden that most people, myself included, can identify with. When life has worn on a person so much, it is hard for them to greet everyday with a smile, even when they have seen their dreams to fruition. The harsh realization that today is going to be just like yesterday, and tomorrow will be exactly the same, is simply too much to handle. Remember, when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.

A perfect example of the changes that Martin Eden went through was the fact that when he was trying to educate himself so he could win Ruth's heart, he detested sleep. It was a waste of time, time that could be better spent reading or writing. By the end, sleep was all Martin ever did. It was an escape from the world that he despised. At the very end of the story, Martin opted for the eternal sleep, instead of living the miserable life that he had been living. Martin had grown to hate everyone, even himself.

The cruelest irony is that Martin seemed happiest just before his life ended. He sat in his stateroom and read a passage by Swinburne, the same author that he had encountered the first night he met his beloved Ruth, and he was moved by it so much that he decided that death was the only solution, the only way to win the game. And what better way for a born and bred seaman to meet his demise than at sea. That one passage made Martin feel better than he had felt in a long time, because it gave him the impetus to kill himself.

This is where Martin Eden differs from most other sane people. Most sane people do not see suicide as a solution. Most see suicide as a sign of quitting. When it gets a little too hot in the kitchen, suicide is nothing more than the easy way out. Martin Eden saw it as the only way out.
We should all learn from Martin Eden's mistake. We can all learn a valuable lesson from him. The lesson is that with hard work and dedication, you can sometimes find a way to win the difficult game called life, even though the odds are against you. We can learn from his mistake of ending his own life. Suicide is never the answer, no matter how much the deck has been stacked against you. Life goes in cycles, and eventually it will get better, no matter how rotten it seems now. That was the advice that Martin Eden should have heeded, instead of a poem about death by Swinburne. It may have saved his life, and prevented him from leaving his own personal Garden of Eden.

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