Last modified on February 23, 2017, at 17:37

The Iron Heel

The Iron Heel
Author Jack London
Year Published 1908
Language English

The Iron Heel (first published 1908) is an early example of dystopian literature, written by American writer and socialist Jack London. It is considered one of the earliest modern negative utopias, although it is not among the most popular, possibly because many of its short-term predictions were quickly proved wrong by history, and the novel lost therefore much of its appeal.


The story takes place in the United States in the early 1900s, and envisions the joining of capitalists and trusts with the government, creating an oppressive capitalistic dictatorship, the Oligarchy, which suppresses freedom and organized labor. Its main character, Ernest Everhard, is a communist revolutionary who organizes two revolutions, in 1920 and 1932; both fail, and Everhard is executed.

The story is narrated by Everhard's wife Avis; the narration is commented by the notes of a fictional historian, Anthony Meredith, who writes around 2600 A.D., an age in which the Oligarchy has been overthrown and a "Brotherhood of Man", a communist utopia, has been established.

Though credited with influencing George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Iron Heel portrays those that London felt were the dangers of a capitalist dictatorship, rather than those of a communist totalitarian regime.


Chapter 7 is almost identical to an essay by Frank Harris; for this, Jack London was accused of plagiarism.

Ernesto Che Guevara's name comes from the main character of the novel, Ernest Everhard.

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