“We all experience such things at some period in our lives. For the first time we see a certain individual, one who the very instant before we did not dream existed; and yet, at the first moment of meeting, we say: ’I do not like that man.’ Why do we not like him? Ah, we do not know; we only know that we do not. We have taken a dislike, that is all. And so I with John Claverhouse.”
The above paragraph provides insufficiently just cause for the actions contained in the darkly comic story that follows. The narrator of London’s story, “Moon-Face,” has an unfounded dislike – no, that word in insufficient; lets try “hatred” – for the hapless John Claverhouse. There is not a good reason. It is likely because the narrator himself is a bitter man, and cannot stand to see another of his species meet misfortune with an unflappably cheerful attitude. It also has something to do with Claverhouse’s physical appearance (leading to his Moon-Face moniker), which is described unkindly by his enemy:
“…cheekbones wide apart, chin and forehead melting into the cheeks to complete the perfect round, and the nose, broad and pudgy, equidistant from the circumference, flattened against the very centre of the face like a dough-ball upon the ceiling.”
The narrator admits physical appearance may have sparked his hatred, saying that Claverhouse had become “an offense to his eyes.” He also speculates that it is Claverhouse’s attitude: “What right had such a man to be happy? … Ah, how it grated on my soul that he should be so happy!”
A man of action, he begins to wage a campaign of evil against Claverhouse, releasing his livestock, burning his barn and haystacks, and other cruelties I don’t care to repeat. Finally, he decides that “the earth should be quit of him” and he “bends his intellect” to plotting the demise of Moon-Face (see the final picture in this post for a hint of a spoiler…). The manner in which he carries out his plans is as humorous as it is effective. I found myself laughing in spite of the fact that such violence is certainly no laughing matter. Perhaps that is the challenge that London set for himself when writing this one – to make his reader laugh despite the inappropriate-ness of such a reaction. If so, congratulations, Mr. London. In my case you succeeded.
(below: London – one of my favorite authors)
This story is very short and can be found online in many places. Here’s one. I own it as part of an eBook of “The Complete Works of Jack London.” Quite a bargain, purchased for just a couple dollars.
Have you read Jack London? What are you favorite books or stories?
(Below: Wile E Coyote – Hmmm… makes me wonder if he ever read London’s “Moon-Face”)