The Role Of Setting Description In All Gold Canyon By Jack London

On September 27 we were 500 000 who were asking for changes in the system so that human activities would stop destroying our mother nature. In his own way in the short story “All Gold Canyon” Jack London denounces our destroying behaviors when he begins by writing a long, elaborate description of the setting. The story begins with a detailed portrayal of a secluded and peaceful canyon. Later on, the main character who is a miner and whose name is Bill discovers the canyon in which he finds gold. From that point on he starts exploiting the canyon. The elaborate setting written by the author allows the reader to see a contrast between the canyon at the beginning and at the end on the story. Also, it makes us understand the spirit of the place and the miner’s perception of it. 

The long description of the setting at the beginning of the short story “All Gold Canyon” is essential in order to make us realize how human activities can affect the environment. This is shown by the arrival of Bill in the canyon. A soon as he arrived the calm of the place was gone. With this elaborate portrayal of the canyon London makes us imagine how beautiful and unspoiled this place might have been. It leads us to feel even more angry when we realize how the miner must have destroy the place while digging holes. I believe it is true to say that the presence of the miner changed the spirit of the place. “Only remained the hoof marks in the meadow and the torn hillside to mark the boisterous trail of the life that had broken the peace of the place and passed on.” Before Bill stepped foot in the canyon it was a hidden place, untouched by the humans and unfortunately the greed of Bill spoiled the paradise that was the canyon. “The spirit of the place was the spirit of the peace of the living, somnolent with the easement and content of prosperity, and undisturbed by rumors of far wars.” By describing the setting of the place in great details the reader understand how the canyon was affected by a human’s presence. 

Furthermore, Jack London begin by writing a long, elaborate description of the setting in order to make us understand the spirit of the place and the spirit of the pocket miner. Those two spirits are very different which would mean that they are not made to live alongside each other. On one hand we have the green heart of the canyon, which is defined as a place with no dust where the flowers and leaves are clean and where the air is characterized by springtime odors and quietness. On the other hand we have the spirit of the pocket man, even if he is impressed by the beauty of the canyon he has a materialistic spirit which makes him see the canyon wrongfully. He can’t see beyond the fact that this place is a gold mine. It explains why he can’t find better words to describe the canyon than: “A pocket-hunter’s delight an’ a cayuse’s paradise! Cool green for tired eyes! Pink pills for pale people ain’t in it.” We can understand Bill’s perception of the canyon with the name he has given it. Bill personalizes a part of the canyon as “Mr. Pocket”. In other words the miner does not get the spirit of the place he can only see the canyon as a money maker because the gold he finds goes straight into his pocket. 

London’s description of the setting was essential to the understanding of the two spirits presented in the story. Hence, the manner in which Jack London describes the setting of the place at the beginning of the short story “All Gold Canyon” serves to better understand how Bill changed the canyon and how his perception of it affected how he treated it. In times of environmental crises, it is interesting to see that in a short story of 1906 the ecological conscience of the author is demonstrated. 

09 March 2021
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