Literature Annotations


London, Jack
The Law of Life


Genre Short Story
KeywordsAging, Death and Dying, Euthanasia, Human Worth, Medical Ethics, Patient Experience
SummaryOld Koskoosh was the chief of an Eskimo tribe. Now he is blind and lame, and his tribe is preparing to leave him alone in the snow to face his death as they travel on without him. His son leaves him a pile of sticks to feed the fire beside him. When the fire dies, so will he. As he waits alone for death, he thinks of the time he left his own father in the snow. He also remembers having seen a sick, old moose killed by wolves when it straggled behind the rest of the herd. "It was the law of all life," he decides. When he feels the cold nose of a wolf on him and hears the pack's footsteps surround him, he first fights them off, then gives in.
CommentaryFor Old Koskoosh, old moose and old men must bend to the same law. Life gives both certain duties and, when they are accomplished, moose and man must die.
SourceShort Stories of Jack London
PublisherMacmillan
Edition1990
EditorsEarle Labor & Robert C. Leitz & I. Milo Shepard
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousFirst published: 1900
Annotated by Moore, Pamela
Date of Entry 08/08/94
Last Revised 10/17/96