1. The Introduction

The story of Keesh is a short story which was written by Jack London that was first published in January of 1904. Keesh was the son of a great huntsman, who was well known and respected in his tribe. Unfortunately, Keesh’s father died when Keesh was very young. As is often the case, the legendary exploits of Keesh’s father was forgotten with time. After many years, the child grows to be thirteen. Inspired by tales of his father’s skills as a hunter, and emboldened by his self-confidence and the lackluster amount of food being gathered by the tribe, he addressed the village elders in the Igloo of the tribe’s chief. A child addressing the tribal elders was seen as precocious. Keesh declared that he would honor his father’s memory and became a great hunter, and bring back a wealth of meat for his people. He was scorned, and they allowed him to go off on his own. Many never expected to hear from him again. Four days later Keesh returned, with an enormous burden of freshly-killed meat over his shoulders. He explained that an entire polar bear’s carcass laid a day’s travel from the village. The villagers were stunned by this boy having endured the elements and succeeded in his quest, became suspicious. After several more hunting excursions on Keesh’s part, all alone and all resulting in enormous amounts of meat for the tribe, the villagers begin whispering that Keesh is undoubtedly practicing witchcraft. However, they had no choice but to be loyal to this manchild, as he had begun to provide them all with bounteous food. Keesh had the appreciative villagers construct for him an enormous Igloo, rivaling that of the chief. After more speculation and Inuendo as to the source of Keesh’s hunting prowess, it was decided to send two scouts to follow him on a hunting exhibition. They returned several days later, having been successful in trailing Keesh to his kill, an enormous (and dangerous) polar bear. They told a tale that the tribal council simply couldn’t believe. Upon his return, the tribe gathered in Keesh’s igloo to accuse him of witchcraft. He answered their charges well. Keesh explained the source of his hunting success. He explained why the two scouts sent to follow him observed him striding up to the bear, enraging it, and convincing it to follow him. He explained why the scouts witnessed his leaving small round balls of food on the ice for the bear, and why the bear soon became ill, and deranged. He explained how he was then able to spear the bear without endangering himself.

2. Detail

a. Plot and Conflict Structure

In the beginning of the story the author tells about a boy who had name Keesh lived in the poor condition together with his mother. Keesh lived at the edge of the polar sea. The father of Keesh had been a brave man. But he had died hunting for food. Keesh was his only son. Keesh lived along with his mother, Ikeega. One night, the village council met in the big Igloo of Klosh-kwan, the chief. He listened, then he waited for silence. He said, “It is true that you give us some meat. But it is often old and tough meat, and has many bones.” The hunters were surprised. This was a child speaking against them. The council ordered Keesh to go to bed. The next day, Keesh started out for the shore, where the land meets the ice. Those who watched saw that he carried his bow and many arrows. Across his shoulder was his father’s big hunting spear. Again there was laughter. One day passed, then a second. On the third day, a great wind blew. There was no sign of Keesh. This part is the beginning of the conflict. His mother, Ikeega, put burned seal oil on her face to show her sorrow. The women shouted at their men for letting the little boy go. The men made no answer, but got ready to search for the body of Keesh. Early next morning, Keesh walked into the village. Across his shoulders was fresh meat. It’s the middle of the story. His mother was very happy. Keesh, trying to be a man, said to her mother that he would sleep because he was tired. There was much talk after Keesh went to his igloo. The killing of a bear was dangerous. But it was three times more dangerous to kill a mother bear with cubs. The conflict is rising action by knowing that the men did not believe Keesh had done so. But the women pointed to the fresh meat. At last, the men agreed to go for the meat that was left. But they were not very happy. So began the mystery of Keesh. On his next trip, he killed a young bear and on the following trip, a large male bear and its mate. Then there was talk of magic and witchcraft in the vill. Keesh continued to bring meat to the village. Some people thought he was a great hunter. There was talk of making him chief, after old Klosh-kwan. They waited, hoping he would come to council meetings. But he never came. The council sat up late talking about Keesh and the meat. They decided to spy on him. On Keesh’s next trip, two young hunters, Bim and Bawn, followed him. After five days, they returned. The council met to hear their story, then the two hunters reported what they had seen. Klosh-kwan led the council to the igloo of Keesh. Keesh told the people in the village how he had killed the bears: he bent some thin pieces of whalebone. The ends were pointed and sharp as a knife. Keesh bent the thin, sharp bones as knives into circles, then put some seal meat inside them, then put them in the snow to freeze. The bear had eaten the ball of meat with the circle of bone inside. When the meat got inside the bear, the meat got warm, and the bone went snap! The sharp points made the bear sick. It is easy to kill them. The conflict is falling action here. Keesh used head-craft, instead of witchcraft, he rose from the poorest igloo to be the chief in the village. And for all the years that followed, his people were happy. No one cried at night with pains of hunger. It’s the end of the story. The story ends with a close denoument. We know that from the end of the story when Keesh told about how he could kill big bears with two bare hands. Apparently he used his brain/wits that made the others said “Ah” for understanding it.

b. Character

1) Keesh

Keesh was a thirteen-year-old boy who lived at the North Pole a long time ago. His father died of sruggling with a bear in order to keep the people in the village from starving. After that, Keesh lived alone with his mother. One council Keesh complained about unfair treatment, but other people laughed at him. Therefore, he decided to hunt by himself. Later on, Keesh used his brain to kill many bears and divided them fairly. In the end, Keesh rose to power and became the leader of his people. Keesh is the major character of this story. He appears throughout the story. He is a round character, we can prove that from the beginning of the story and the ending. At the beginning he is a young boy who is innocence, but at the end of the story he becomes a brave man who is respected by the others. He is protagonist character. He has an important role and he is the central figure in the story.

2) Klosh-Kwan

Klosh-Kwan was the chief of the village who lived in a large igloo. In the beginning, he could not believe Keesh, but he admired him later. He is a deutragonist because in the beginning of the story, he has opposed Keesh but at the end he generously acknowledges what he sees. He is a round character too.

3) Ikeega

Ikeega was Keesh’s mother who lived only with his sole son. She loved his son very much. She is a flat character, because from the beginning until the end she is the same, doesn’t develop. She is a tritagonist because she is a character which is needed as the complement in the story.

4) Ugh-Gluk

Ugh-Gluk were opposed Keesh from the beginning until the end of the story. So, Ugh-Gluk is considered as the antagonist and has flat character.

5) Bim and Bawn

Bim and Bawn were two clever young hunters who were appointed to spy on Keesh. They told how Keesh killed bears when they came back. They are a tritagonist character because they just appear in some parts of the story and don’t have important role, the are just as complement and flat character.

c. Setting

The Story of Keesh takes place in a cold area. We can conclude from the word “Igloo” which we can find in the story. Igloo is a type of shelter built of snow so that we can find in snow area that originally built by Inuit. Furthermore, we can explore it from the story itself. Keesh hunted bear, as we know that the bear just find in cold area, it’s pole.So, we conclude that it takes place in a cold area.

d. Point of View

In this short story, the author takes place as third person limited omniscient. It means that the author knows everything about the character which he creates, but there is a place where the author doesn’t know about the character. The author doesn’t know what is in the deep heart of the character.

e. Style and Tone

The style that is used in this story is a good style in literature work. It is used the English old style. We can find some sentences in the story which use the old style. For an instance, “Thou hast a wife Ugh-Gluk”. The word “thou” means you. Beside that, we can find figuratice language here. For example, look at the following sentence, “The anger boiled a white heat”.

f. Theme and The Moral Value of The Story

The theme of this short story is the sacrifice which is forgotten. Keesh tries to prove that his father has become the savior for his community. He comes again to make the society aware that they have to appreciate every sacrifice of the person. We can derive some moral values of this story such as we have to appreciate the sacrifice of a person and we should not have bad prejudice towards each other.

3. Discussion

From the detail that we have explained above, we are interested in theme and the moral value of the story. The theme of the story is the sacrifice which is forgotten. This phenomena is commonly found in community life. In fact, we often find in our daily lives. After Keesh was born, when he was young, his father had been a very brave man, when a time of famine came, he was willing to sacrifice himself to go to hunt bear alone. While we know that bears are wild animals, but he thought of how his society could survive. This makes Bok, Keesh father’s went out hunting without thinking of his own safety. After the death of Bok, people around him tend to forget the sacrifice and struggle that he has done.So, we can say that the theme portrays about the characteristic of the characters in the story. The theme forms the characteristic of the characters in the story. The sacrifice which is forgotten means that Keesh father had desire to save the society by hunting the bear. However, he failed and died. On the other hand, his sacrifice isn’t respected by the society. We can see that in the story after the death of Keesh’s father, Keesh and his mother were ignored by the society such as they were isolated from the society, they were left to live in slum suburb. By knowing the sacrifice of Keesh’s father, the society should be empathy and care about them. They should treat them like the other members of the society. In fact, it was not like that. As the result, we know that the characteristic of the characters in the story are portrayed from the Keesh’s father sacrifice, because the Keesh’s father sacrifice is unvalued in the society. We can see from the characters in the story such as Ugh-Gluk. Ugh-Gluk is the harsh person, then she likes to underestimate people. it looks at the story that from the beginning until the ending of the story she is still unconscious with the sacrifice of the Keesh’s father. She still opposes Keesh desire to go to hunt the bear by himself. That is the proof that she is a harsh person. Beside that, she likes to underestimate the people seems when she said to Keesh that, it’s impossible to the son of a failure in hunting will be success to hunt the bear who is 13 years old by himself. Not only the Ugh-Gluk character that we can see from the theme but also the other characters. After the death of his father, Keesh lived alone with his mother in poverty and they are quickly forgotten by the society. In contrast to when Keesh has grown and become a strong boy, he tried to prove the community that he is able to hunt. When he succeeded in getting some bear meat, the people around him change into community who appreciate and elevating them into the higher class. Before Keesh succeeded in proving his intelligence in the hunt process, the people around him have given prejudiced by accusing first that Keesh has used magic to get the bear meat. This story shows the character in a community life. They just appreciate someone when he/she succeeds to give something to the society/community and they immediately forget it then. Finally, we can know the caharacteric of the characters through the theme.

4. Conclusion

Through this literature work, the author tries to portray the phenomena that is commonly found in our life. Keeesh is a major character who has important role in the story that the author expect to be able to create the impression of being a savior in the community. Keesh tries to sensitize the community by doing the same thing as that of his father do in the past. Finally, he succeeds in showing to the community that his father is a figure of people who contributed to the community life by looking into Keesh’s work. We can get some moral values that we have expressed in the detail that we have to appreciate the people’s work and sacrifice and we should not give prejudice first before we can prove someone else work. Based on the author’s life who had experienced as the laborer, factory worker, oyster pirate on the San Francisco Bay, member of the California Fish Patrol, sailor, railroad hobo, and gold prospector and he endorsed socialism, it’s related to the theme of story that told about the social life in human relation in the community. Beside that, the live of the main character in the story has connection with the real author’s live.


  1. Zarina says:

    Hi. If possible, can you give me few references when London used foreshadowing in The Story of Keesh?
    Thank You in advance.

    1. As human,we should not look down to other people,especially for those who do not have superior position in a community or environment. We should treat everyone equally no matter what his/her class in community. Further, we should not underestimate lower people and we should confess for their ability to do things that the superior cannot do.

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