"The Law of Life": an Analysis of Jack London's Short Story

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 712 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Sep 7, 2023

Words: 712|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Sep 7, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Summary of "The Law of Life"
  2. Themes of "The Law of Life"
  3. Life, Death, and Survival
  4. Nature and Humanity
  5. Challenging Morality and Ethics
  6. Conclusion

Jack London's short story, "The Law of Life," is a poignant exploration of the harsh realities of life, death, and survival in the unforgiving wilderness. This essay will provide a brief summary of the story and delve into its themes, examining how they relate to the profound issues of life, death, and the relationship between nature and humanity. Additionally, it will explore how the narrative challenges traditional notions of morality and ethics.

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Summary of "The Law of Life"

"The Law of Life" revolves around an elderly Native American man named Koskoosh, who is abandoned by his tribe in the harsh Yukon wilderness as he has become too weak to keep up with their nomadic lifestyle. The story unfolds as Koskoosh faces his impending death alone in the wilderness, surrounded by the unforgiving elements and the relentless pursuit of a pack of wolves. In his final moments, he reflects on the "law of life," which he believes dictates that the old must make way for the young, accepting his fate with stoic resignation.

Themes of "The Law of Life"

"The Law of Life" grapples with several profound themes that resonate with the human condition. At its core, the story explores the inevitability of death and the relentless passage of time. Koskoosh's predicament serves as a stark reminder that, in the face of nature's indifference, all living beings are subject to the unyielding law of mortality. The story illustrates the fragility of human existence when confronted by the forces of the wild.

The relationship between nature and humanity is another central theme in the story. London vividly portrays the wilderness as a formidable and unyielding adversary, indifferent to the suffering and struggles of individuals. Nature, in this narrative, is a powerful force that shapes the destiny of characters like Koskoosh. It underscores the insignificance of human beings in the grand scheme of the natural world, emphasizing the brutal reality of survival in the wilderness.

Furthermore, "The Law of Life" challenges traditional notions of morality and ethics. In Koskoosh's culture, the elderly are left to die when they become a burden to the tribe. This practice may seem callous or immoral from an outsider's perspective, but the story invites readers to consider the cultural relativism of morality. It highlights the moral complexities that arise when one's actions are shaped by the imperatives of survival and the harsh realities of a harsh environment.

Life, Death, and Survival

Koskoosh's journey reflects the universal human experience of grappling with the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, and the relentless pursuit of survival. His acceptance of his fate and the "law of life" demonstrates a stoic wisdom that comes from a deep understanding of the natural world. In his final moments, Koskoosh finds a sense of peace, embracing the cyclical nature of existence, where life gives way to death, making room for new life.

Nature and Humanity

The story's portrayal of nature as an indifferent and relentless force challenges human notions of control and dominance over the environment. In the wilderness, humans are mere specks in the vast expanse of nature, subject to its whims and unyielding laws. "The Law of Life" serves as a cautionary tale, reminding readers of the hubris in believing that humanity can conquer and subdue the natural world. It underscores the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature, where survival often hinges on humility and adaptability.

Challenging Morality and Ethics

The story's treatment of the tribe's practice of abandoning the elderly raises complex ethical questions. While it may appear heartless, it forces readers to confront the moral relativism inherent in cultural practices. Koskoosh's acceptance of this practice, born out of the necessity of survival, challenges conventional moral judgments. It prompts us to consider how morality can be shaped by the imperatives of survival and the unique cultural contexts in which individuals find themselves.

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"The Law of Life" by Jack London is a haunting exploration of the fundamental aspects of human existence—life, death, and survival. Through the character of Koskoosh and the unforgiving Yukon wilderness, the story delves into the relationship between humanity and nature, challenging traditional notions of morality and ethics. It serves as a reminder of the relentless passage of time and the inevitability of mortality, ultimately leaving readers with a profound sense of the interconnectedness of all life forms and the enduring power of the natural world.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

“The Law of Life”: An Analysis of Jack London’s Short Story. (2023, September 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from
““The Law of Life”: An Analysis of Jack London’s Short Story.” GradesFixer, 07 Sept. 2023,
“The Law of Life”: An Analysis of Jack London’s Short Story. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Apr. 2024].
“The Law of Life”: An Analysis of Jack London’s Short Story [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Sept 07 [cited 2024 Apr 19]. Available from:
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