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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

While Jack London is renowned for hypermasculine narratives, this essay traces his ongoing interest in marriage and domestic themes. That thread becomes especially visible as the essay establishes as an overlooked historical context for understanding London’s thinking about gender: the Progressive era debate over marriage and divorce. While in early work (and in his own first marriage) London maintained a troubling distinction between “Mother”-women versus “Mate”-women, later work (and to some extent, London’s second marriage) reflects a more egalitarian and companionate model, such as was recommended by contemporary marriage reformers. In particular, this essay traces the marriage reformers’ idea of a voluntary relationship between economically independent coworkers as refracted through London’s evolving portrayals of the division of labor in romantic partnerships. Drawing from London’s two marriages, one divorce, and troubled relationship with his daughters, this essay examines as well his evolving portrayals of sexuality, adultery, and reproduction.

Keywords: divorce, biography, labor, heterosexuality, sexuality, gender, adultery, reproduction

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