Blog Post 1 – People of the Abyss

What did I know about the Victorian Era?
When registering for this class, I had forgotten… well… most of what I had “learned” about Victorian England in high school. I recall bits and pieces of a vast class distinction: the fabulously wealthy and the desperately impoverished. I can’t quite remember a saying coined for yelling when tossing sewage from windows to the streets below, but I remember laughing at the fate of those who walked by at such inopportune moments. I can also remember paintings of massive palaces and beautiful parks.

What did I know about Jack the Ripper and his murders?
“Jack the Ripper? That’s some creepy dude who killed people… right?! What a baller class!!!!” I am ashamed to say that this isn’t too far off of the reason I picked this class. I am also afraid to admit that this is about all I knew about Jack the Ripper. Knives and top-hats. And blood… lots. As I talked to people about this class, I started to hear bits and pieces of the Jack the Ripper story from others who knew almost no more than me. I was very intrigued to slowly be learning about a man who killed five or so women in the slums of England in the late 1800’s. So I entered this class essentially ignorant of this topic with the exception of a gripping movie-teaser-worth of information.

Reaction to People of the Abyss:
I enjoyed following Jack London’s journey though the East End. His intense descriptions and rich imagery conveyed a clear picture of not only the world he had walked into, but because of his select observations, they also spoke of the world he had walked out from. My high-school memory of class separation wasn’t as far off as I had previously thought. I really enjoyed how he included the formality of his speech and the dialect used in the Abyss; at times I had to read it out loud in my strongest southern-drawl to understand it, what a tribute to my roots. I’ll be lucky to shake the accent before morning. As a character, I admire Jack London for traveling to such a different world when those around him kept telling him what a horrible idea it was, and for his willingness to thoroughly explore it and so skillfully share that experience with his readers.

–TSmith

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