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The Ugly Laws,

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Ahuva Mehlman

on 28 December 2015

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Transcript of The Ugly Laws,

The Ugly Laws,
and Lupus:

Jack London's Influences

Jack London suffered
from lupus
London wrote of his disease,
has now almost crippled me from my waist down.
Right leg drawing up, can no longer straighten it, even in walking must put my whole weight on toes,”
Brown Wolf
To Build a Fire

Because Lupus is the Latin word for wolf, it is nicknamed
“the wolf disease”
by many. In the 18th century, when Lupus
was just starting to be recognized as a disease, it was thought that it was caused by
a wolf bite

London also noted his continuous mouth and gum
problems, together with severe headaches,
facial neuralgia,pulmonary problems, bronchitis,
and chest pains, all
common manifestations of lupus.

Many of London’s works are centered
around his obsession with wolves.
- London was called "Wolf"
- London named his mansion "Wolf House"

In 1867 San Francisco, California was the
first American city to enforce ugly laws, making it illegal for persons with
unsightly or disgusting disabilities to appear in public.

The goal of ugly laws were to preserve the pretty facade of the community. The disabled and the poor were the lowest class in society. Nobody wanted anything to do with them, let alone actually look at them.

The Ugly Laws
Critics on To Build a Fire
*King Hendricks: "a man's desire to live"
* I believe it shows how indestructible
the wolf is. The wolf, who did not prepare anything
to keep him warm, and the man, with all his preparation, dies.

*Richard F. Robbinns: man’s quest to find meaning in his existence:

Ted Andrews writes in his book Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small: “Wolves are probably the
most misunderstood of the wild mammals.
In spite of the negative press, wolves are almost the exact opposite of how they are portrayed. They are friendly, social, and highly intelligent. Their sense of family is strong and loyal, and they live by carefully defined rules and rituals,” (Andrews 97).

London might have wanted to
convey in his short story his feeling of being misunderstood by society, as he was subject to the ugly laws and all its punishments from his lupus disease. To portray that idea, he would need to bring an animal that symbolizes the same misunderstanding he felt personally: a wolf.

Why specifically a wolf?
The wolf in “To Build a Fire” fights all odds and lives

London might have written about it to give him
motivation that he too can overcome his lupus,
even though the odds are against him and
there is no definite cure.
A third possible reason might be that in
this story London first portrays the wolf as unprepared and “weak” compared to the human, which is similar to lupus, a disease that weakens the patient and has no known cure.

which is similar to lupus, a disease that weakens the patient and has no known cure.
Critics on Brown Wolf

* Critics such as Charles Child Walcutt write about the Darwinian existance the wolf fights
I would like to suggest a possible theme:
the wolf’s power over the humans and its non-comparative strength.


Critics neglect to highlight the significance of the wolf in London's short stories, London's lupus, and the ugly laws.
Full transcript