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“The true path to salvation”: Conversion to the Religion of Socialism in the Work of Jack London and Upton Sinclair
  • Andrew Ball
Andrew Ball
Harvard University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Abstract

The most common motif in early twentieth century radical literature is the conversion narrative. A variation on the bildungsroman, these works feature conversions to socialism or to the labor movement that are modeled on techniques used by evangelical revivalists and on the experiences of religious converts. The most widely read and emblematic radical authors to consistently employ this trope were Jack London and Upton Sinclair. Not only did London and Sinclair continually utilize the conversion story in their fiction and nonfiction, they both described their own discovery of socialism as a religious conversion. In their work, both authors diligently seek to conflate Christianity and socialism and to prove that, not only are the two compatible, but that authentic observance of Christianity demands the endorsement of socialism. London and Sinclair use their writing as a method of evangelism that aims to convince their audience that socialism is a religious enterprise and means to salvation.