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The People of the Abyss

Jack London

Book Overview: 

Jack London lived for a time within the grim and grimy world of the East End of London, where half a million people scraped together hardly enough on which to survive. Even if they were able to work, they were paid only enough to allow them a pitiful existence. He grew to know and empathize with these forgotten (or ignored) people as he spoke with them and tasted the workhouse, life on the streets, … and the food, which was cheap, barely nutritious, and foul.

He writes about his experiences in a fluid and narrative style, making it very clear what he thinks of the social structures which created the Abyss, and of the millionaires who live high on the labors of a people forced to live in squalor. "The food this managing class eats, the wine it drinks, the fine clothes it wears, are challenged by eight million mouths which have never had enough to fill them, and by twice eight million bodies which have never been sufficiently clothed and housed.”

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .>casually rest his weary bones, and then work like a navvy next day to pay for it.

My second attempt to break into the casual ward began more auspiciously.  I started in the middle of the afternoon, accompanied by the burning young socialist and another friend, and all I had in my pocket was thru’pence.  They piloted me to the Whitechapel Workhouse, at which I peered from around a friendly corner.  It was a few minutes past five in the afternoon but already a long and melancholy line was formed, which strung out around the corner of the building and out of sight.

It was a most woeful picture, men and women waiting in the cold grey end of the day for a pauper’s shelter from the night, and I confess it almost unnerved me.  Like the boy before the dentist’s door, I suddenly discovered a multitude of reasons for being elsewhere.  Some hints of the struggle going on within must have shown in my face, for one of my com. . . Read More

Community Reviews

What Jacob Riis did for New York City with his photos of tenements, Jack London did for London with his book, The People of the Abyss. The abyss that he referred to was the squalid East End of London, where the poorest of the poor lived and died.

All of the horrors are there, described not by a di...more

For six weeks Jack London dresses and attempts to live like the poor on London's east side. He quickly realizes that no matter how hard a man or woman works, the cards are stacked against them. I'm sure this had a greater impact when read during the time it was written, when bringing the poverty...more

This is a remarkable classic, deserving of a place on the shelf right next to Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. In fact, The People of the Abyss likely inspired Orwell to write his book, according to a biography I read.

If the reader can put aside the fact of London’s strange ambivalence...more

Gelirleriyle çocuklara kitap hediye edeceğim YouTube kanalımda Uçurum İnsanları kitabını yorumladım: https://youtu.be/danHMzhKVrY

"Açın milyon katı toklar
Yani isteseler rahat rahat doyururlar" Indigo

Bugün ben Milano'nun alışveriş caddesi Via Montenapoleone, Paris'in zamanında aristokratik amaçlara...more

I find myself amazed and honestly a little depressed that a book published in 1903 about the poor of London can seem so relevant today. There are familiar themes of a wealthy, booming society that does little to nothing to care for its indigent, while also passing laws and serving punishments see...more

Viaggio nell'inferno della fame, dell'indigenza, della povertà assoluta, della degenerazione più infima. E Jack London, nel 1902, si mette nei panni di questi "miserabili" in prima persona e vagabonda per le strade dell'East End, quartiere dove sono stati recluse le persone della "classe inferior...more

"Dice un proverbio cinese che, se c'è un uomo che vive nell'ozio, vuol dire che ce n'è un altro che muore di fame"

Nel 1902 Jack London decide di togliersi gli abiti dello scrittore di successo e si cala fra la marmaglia del malfamato East End londinese.

Confondendosi tra disperati e vagabondi o...more

My present political position in life is one that has evolved through time. I was a young Republican in my early adult life and then began to observe how our first-world society works and more importantly, read about how it used to be. Books such as The Jungle, Sister Carry, and Martin Eden defin...more

The People of the Abyss, Jack London
The People of the Abyss (1903) is a book by Jack London about life in the East End of London in 1902. He wrote this first-hand account after living in the East End for several weeks, sometimes staying in workhouses or sleeping on the streets. In his attempt to...more

I read this as a companion piece to "Wolf", the recent biography of Jack London. He was a lifelong socialist and this was a subject he was passionate about. This was the dark underbelly of the gilted age. And because of unions and the socialist party, we have minimum wage, social security, and we...more

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