Law Of Life By Koshoosh Death is an end result of any living creature in Nature. As an intelligent species it is sometimes difficult, especially when personally facing death, to accept this brutal reality. Koshoosh, in “The Law of Life” written by Jack London, experiences the intelligible acceptance of the “law of..flesh”(890). He is found being left alone by his tribe “in the snow, with a little pile of wood.”(891) When he starts his reflective meditation on people and events he has observed throughout his life, he tries to understand the reason for his death. Although the body may be old and unable to defend itself physically, there is a conscious desire to live on.
Therefore an individuals acceptance of death does not illustrate their surrender to it. Koshoosh is almost admirable in facing death. His “barbaric mind was capable of “(891) understanding his brutal environment because he too left his father at one time. This made him no better than anyone else in the tribe. Koskoosh once was the leader of his tribe, he did “great deeds and made his name a curse in the mouths of the Pellys”(893). He has become a serene and wise old man through his experiences and knowledge.
On an intellectual level Koskoosh accepts death but as a human he still has a strong will to survive. Koskoosh is faced with many forces, externally and internally, that are working to bring his life to an end. Externally, one of the most apparent is the cold of the winter wind and the snow. He uses the fire in front of him for warmth and the “shelter of his mangy furs”(889) to protect him from the elements. He also has a limited supply of wood, and he thinks, “measure of his life was a handful of faggots.”(890) When they were finished then frost would take over. That is if “the glowing eyes, the lolling tongues, the slavering fangs'”(893) of the wolves didn’t get him first. Koshoosh is also faced with internal forces, which is the acceptance and understanding of his death, in the way of nature.
Koskoosh feels “forlorn and helpless”(889) in his internal struggle to survive against what he understands to be “the way of life.”(890) Koskoosh begins the first of many reflections in his struggle to understand his fight for life. He is listening to his granddaughter give commands to break camp. He longs for her to at least say goodbye, but knows that “the duties of life, not death”(889) call to her. Koskoosh understands that if she slows down to visit with him it will jeopardize the health of the tribe, because they must follow the caribou. Koskoosh can also hear the cries of little Koo-tee who in his mind is a “fretful child, and not overstrong.”(890) He feels as though the child would die soon, again he is internally enforcing to himself that death will come to everyone. In the dialogue between Koskoosh and his son, he expresses his acceptance of death and begins to reassure his son as well as himself that there will not be a great struggle for life.
Through a comparison of his life to that of “last years leaf, clinging lightly to the stem.”(890), just a breath will knock it off “and I fall.”(890) Koskoosh is also affirming to himself that “All men must die.”(890) and that the practice of leaving the old and sick behind “was the way of life, and it was just.”(890) In hearing his fathers’ acceptance Koskoosh’s son leaves. Although Koskoosh makes this statement, he still tries to answer to himself his role in nature. He then begins to describe natures lack of “concern for that concrete thing called the individual”(891). In that nature’s interest lies in the species not the individuals struggle for life. Koskoosh relates structures such as the “bursting greenness of the willow”(891) but then in the fall the yellowing of the leaves. He thinks of how the “mosquitoes vanished with the first frost.”(891) When rabbits and squirrels get to old to carry on they either die or get caught by their enemies.
He thinks of how he’s “been left, in the snow, with a little pile of wood”( 891). He is feeling some self-pity because he knows this is the end for him but his desire to survive is strong and he places another “stick carefully upon the fire”(891) he must keep warm to herd off death a little while longer. Koskoosh continues in his meditations and reflections in search for the truth in his question of surrendering to death. He remembers the missionary that came with medicines but was unable to stop death from taking his life. Even though the missionary seemed to be more advanced, he still met the same end as all living creatures do. Going deeper into reflections of the past Koskoosh remembers when “there was a time of great famine”(891) and the old men died and he even “lost his mother in that famine”(891).
“But he had seen times of plenty..when they let game go unkilled, and women fertile.”(892) He is viewing life as being natural and that even in time of plenty there may come times of famine, such is life. He remembers this time of plenty when he was a boy of how “he saw a moose pulled down by..wolves.”(892) This brings to thought his friend Zing-ha and how he was the “craftiest of hunters,”(892) who died when he fell through an air hole on the Yukon. With all his craft and great ability to hunt he too still met with death. Koskoosh identifies himself with the moose. He’s the “old one who cannot keep up with the herd.”(892) The moose had been dragged down twice and still got up. “He had done his task long since,”(892) but life was “dead to him.”(892) But in Koskoosh’s mind, life was dear.
“Why should he cling to life?”(893) Through all his reflecting death always prevailed it was always how everything came to end. Koskoosh comes back to reality and his present situation because the frost began to chill him. He places two more logs on the fire and then “gauged his grip on life by what remained”(893) of the logs. He is in a struggle for life against the elements. He hears a howl, death is close.
He remembers the picture of the moose and the wolves. He thinks of his unavoidable end. Feeling “a cold muzzle thrust against his cheeks”(893) Koskoosh starts his battle with death. He waves his hands and arms wildly. More wolves from the pack join them and Koskoosh, knowing that whatever he may do, he will still die.
“What did it matter after all? Was it not the law of life?”(893) After Koskoosh surrenders to his death he questions why he has a desire to survive. He does not absolutely accept his death. If nature’s “law was death”(891) then why are we given the will to survive? It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if you are animal, human or any other living species, everyone and everything has the will to survive, even if they can’t physically defend itself. Koskoosh goes through his reflections of his own life’s trial and tribulations to try and give him an understanding of why he is sacrificing his life as an individual. Even though we are all going to face death we will always strive to survive, no matter the odds.