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May 10 , 2008

The Iron Heel


The Iron Heel is a dystopian novel by American writer Jack London, first published in 1908.
Generally considered to be “the earliest of the modern Dystopian”, it chronicles the rise of an oligarchic tyranny in the United States. It is arguably the novel in which Jack London’s socialist views are most explicitly on display. A forerunner of soft science fiction novels and stories of the 1960s and ‘70s, the book stresses future changes in society and politics while paying much less attention to technological changes.[citation needed]
The book is unusual among London’s writings (and in the literature of the time in general) in being a first-person narrative of a woman protagonist written by a man. Much of the narrative is set in the San Francisco Bay Area, including events in San Francisco and Sonoma County.
The novel is based on the (fictional) “Everhard Manuscript” written by Avis Everhard which she hid and which was subsequently found centuries later. In addition, this novel has an introduction and series of (often lengthy) footnotes written from the perspective of scholar Anthony Meredith. Meredith writes from around 2600 AD or 419 B.O.M. (the Brotherhood of Man). Jack London writes at two levels, often having Meredith condescendingly correcting the errors of Everhard yet, at the same time, exposing the often incomplete understanding of this distant future perspective.
London ambitiously predicted a breakdown of the US republic starting a few years past 1908, but various events have caused his predicted future to diverge from actual history. Most crucially, though London placed quite accurately the time when international tensions will reach their peak (1913 in “The Iron Heel”, 1914 in actual history), he (like many others at the time) predicted that when this moment came, labor solidarity would prevent a war that would include the US, Germany and other nations. In reality, capitalist interests had international solidarity, while labor and socialist movements focused on local issues and could not prevent a war.
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