Jack London’s Best Quotes 💬

Jack London was an American writer who is best known for his adventure fiction novels, like ‘The Call of the Wild’ in which he wrote about the meaning of life, the power of the natural world, and humanity.

Jack London

(1876-1908), American Novelist

Below, readers can explore a few of the best quotes from Jack London’s personal life and his literary works. These touch on topics like adventure, nature, and humanity. London’s writing is well-known for his stylistic mix of direct and lyrical prose. 

Jack London's Best Quotes


He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.

These lines are some of the best-known from Jack London’s famous adventure fiction novel, ‘The Call of the Wild.’ Here, the human narrator that carries most of the novel describes Buck’s experience in the “wild.” While much of the novel is written in direct, frivolous pros, there are sections like this one and which Jack London indulges more lyrical language and for which the book as well-loved.

A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of laughter more terrible than any sadness-a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. 

These lines are found in Jack London’s ‘White Fang,’ his second best-known novel. It uses personification to depict the “land” and its cruelty, barrenness, and mirthlessness. It was devoid of life and home only to desolation. Through these lines, he demonstrates the power of the natural world and how some environments, like the Yukon, and nearly impossible to inhabit. 

Living Life 

I would rather be ashes than dust!

I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.

I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.

The function of man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time.

This commonly quoted series of lines from Jack London is filled with the inspiration and liveliness that readers of his novels should be familiar with. He speaks about maintaining a “spark” in life and burning until the very last moment and how he’d rather be something small and powerful, like a meteor, than a “sleepy and permanent planet.” He summarizes these assertions with the phrase, “The function of man is to live, not to exist.” 

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

Here is another quote from Jack London that focuses on the beauty and importance of life. The speaker uses first-person lines to speak about life and knowing that “one is alive.” The pinnacle of one’s life or the “summit” comes alongside a “complete forgetfulness that one is alive,” he says. 

Humanity and Pain

As one grows weaker one is less susceptible to suffering. There is less hurt because there is less to hurt.

These lines are found in Jack London’s ‘The Star Rover,’ a novel published in 1915. Each focuses on the theme of reincarnation, and elements were inspired by the imprisonment of London’s friend, Ed Morrell. The lines speak to the degradation of the soul and a lack of will. As one’s life and willingness to live degrades, so does one’s ability to be injured by suffering. 

Intelligent men are cruel. Stupid men are monstrously cruel.

This short quote is attributed to Jack London and speaks about human nature and how it corresponds with intelligence or lack thereof. Stupidity, he asserts, or ignorance combined with arrogance, makes “men” crueler than intelligence does. 

Who are you, Martin Eden? he demanded of himself in the looking-glass, that night when he got back to his room. He gazed at himself long and curiously. Who are you? What are you? Where do you belong? You belong by rights to girls like Lizzie Connolly. You belong with the legions of toil, with all that is low, and vulgar, and unbeautiful. You belong with the oxen and the drudges, in dirty surroundings among smells and stenches. 

These lines are from Jack London’s semi-autobiographical novel, Martin Eden. They contend with the theme of identity along with pain and self-discovery. London used the character of Martin Eden to depict the suffering he endured as he attempted to break into the literary world. Eden describes himself as worthless and belonging only to that which is “low, and vulgar, and unbeautiful.” 


What is a meaningful quote from Jack London?

London wrote the lines: “Intelligent men are cruel. Stupid men are monstrously cruel,” a pithy description of how arrogance makes men crueler than intelligence does. Feeling as though one is less intelligent results, in London’s eyes, greater mistreatment of one’s fellow human beings. 

What are some Jack London quotes? 

London wrote the famous lines: “He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death.” This quote comes from his best-loved novel, ‘The Call of the Wild,’ and describes Buck’s experience as he begins to heed the call of the “wild.” 

What is Jack London’s birthday?

Jack London was born on January 12th, 1876. He passed away on November 22nd, 1916. His death has remained something of a mystery, with some suggesting that he may have committed suicide. 

How did Jack London get his last name?

The name “London” came from his stepfather. His biological father left him and his mother when he was young, and she re-married to John London, whose surname the author later used. 

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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