Known best for his novels The Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea Wolf (1904), and White Fang (1906), Jack London was one of America’s pioneering and most beloved adventure writers. Born in Oakland, California, London worked various jobs – including newspaper deliveryman and in a cannery – around the San Francisco Bay area. It was not until London went north to join the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska that he turned to writing. After he failed to strike gold, London was at the forefront of American adventure fiction within a few years.
“Told in the Drooling Ward” is quite different from most of London’s fiction. Instead of the frontier, the setting here is the confines of a state mental institution. Told from the point of view of a patient, the story follows a narrator that questions his place in the institution, flees, returns, and tries to find his place in the world. What informs our perceptions of the disabled? How do we identify who is disabled? How can care be offered to the disabled without impeding their independence?
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Originally published in the June, 1914 edition of The Bookman