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date: 22 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The People of the Abyss is Jack London’s study of the poor in the city of London, England, in 1902. This essay places the book in the context of earlier poverty studies by Joseph Tuckerman, Henry Mayhew, William Booth, Charles Loring Brace, Jacob Riis, Robert Blatchford, George Hawes, and others. The essay then considers four tensions within London’s book: between London’s roles as both observer and participant, between his affinity for the lower classes of his own origin and his new status as a successful writer and middle-class family man, between his feelings of both revulsion and sympathy for the poor, and between the docile and subservient poor and those who are spirited or rebellious in the face of charity. The interplay of these tensions enables London to portray vividly and examine fully the lives of the poor who inhabit the East End of the city of London.

Keywords: East End, sociology, poverty, charity, reform, London, England, The People of the Abyss, poverty

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