Abstract

Hobos and tramps are everywhere in the works of Mark Twain and Jack London. Twain is a gentleman “tramp” in The Innocents Abroad (1872) and in A Tramp Abroad (1880), if not in Roughing It (1872). Certainly Twain's frontier upbringing, his teenage years wandering in the Midwest for apprentice newspaper and printing jobs, and his experiences on the river taught him hard truths, mostly about human character. London, son of the lower-middle working class of Oakland, California, always insisted that his call to writing happened before the Yukon, when as a hobo in 1892 he learned how to tell a tale interesting and tragic enough that it would earn him a handout. His book about his hoboing is The Road (1907), and he wrote related works. He believed his experiences on the Road and in prison for vagrancy revealed a way forward, to portray life in his writing as grimly as it was. London was able to apply his socialism to an imperial government in the observations he made while spending six weeks walking the streets as a member of the homeless and slum-dwellers in the heart of the great city of Empire. He made his first professional photographs for this book, The People of the Abyss (1903). He reveals a different life on a different sort of Road in a city, in many ways a worse road of despair than that of wanderers back home in the American West.

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