"South of the Slot"

Length: 5 Pages 1208 Words

Jack London’s story, “South of the Slot,” takes place in San Francisco around the turn of the 20th century. The Slot referrers to the “iron crack that ran along the center of Market street” that held the endless amounts of cable that was attached to the cable cars (1). The “Slot” is not only an element of the setting, but it also serves as a metaphor for the division of social classes at that time. The main character, Freddie Drummond, lives north of the Slot, an area for the wealthy upper-class, reserved for theaters, shopping districts, and respectable businesses. South of the Slot was set aside for working-class people and their factories, slums, and machine-shops (1). Throughout “South of the Slot,” Jack London uses the theme of naturalism. Generally, naturalism refers to the practice of viewing life strictly from a scientific approach. By examining the forces that govern human beings, London comments on the natural laws behind these forces and their impact on individual behavior and choice. The forces of heredity and environment shape Freddie Drummond’s persona and perception of himself. At the onset of the story, the reader understands that Freddie Drummond accepts his place in society. He is c Continue...

Bill Totts victoriously emerges from Freddie Drummond as he "emitted an unearthly and uncultured yell (9). He is unremarkable in thought, action, and deed. His coldness and detached nature makes it easy for him to report on the facts (as he sees them, not how they really are) and go back to his dull life north of Market street. This is embodied by the character, Freddie Drummond. As a professor of sociology, his published works were noted for their accuracy, but not for their insight or ideas. This strange dualism he had developed was after all very instable, ... he saw that it could not endure. The process of natural section means that only the strongest, brightest, and most adaptable elements of a species will survive. Along with the governing forces of heredity, environment, and instincts, London introduces the concept of natural selection. "Somewhere in his make-up there was a strange twist or quirk and Drummond becomes a different person (3). The heredity and environmental conditions allow Drummond to be a "reserved man. "Once having mastered the language ..., he found that he could flow into any nook of working-class life and fit it so snugly as to feel comfortably at home (2). South of the Slot, he became "'Big' Bill Totts, who could drink and smoke, and slang and fight, and be an all-around favorite (3). He is no longer controlled by his unnatural environment, and as he learns to live in this new world, he adapts and changes to survive. However, the reader can see how easy the transition to working-class life is for Drummond. This inability to think freely and to formulate ideas of his own is a great example of how Drummond is controlled by the societal norms of his environment.