Jack London: The Sea Wolf



I ve read uite a few of London s books although it was years ago for most I ve reread a few but somehow never got to this one I m glad I remedied that Wolf Larsen Hump are certainly two of the most vivid interesting characters I ve had the pleasure to encounter The story was all the intriguing because it explores the meaning purpose of life through a rousing adventure London based much of it on a sailing voyage he took to Japan which explains the reality of the settingWolf Larsen is the penultimate materialistic man He believes life is nothing than a seething vat of yeast where the stronger eat the weaker for no other reason than they can He believes in no afterlife or gods He holds to no law save that of the ungle but he s completely rejected any sort of society On top of that he s the captain last of the tyrants of a seal hunting ship so is the ultimate authority in a small violent world peopled by fantastically hard damaged menHumphrey Sissy van Weyden is so pitifully sheltered that it s amazing he took the ferry without an adult to accompany him even though he s 35 years old He uite believably winds up on the Ghost under Wolf s rule The story is mostly about the growth of Hump into a man under this harsh tutelageI didn t give it 5 stars simply because of the ridiculous Victorian love theme running through it It was awful I thought that Maud Brewster was well drawn especially for the times though She certainly wasn t the robust kick ass heroine of modern fiction but she grew at least as much as Hump did My edition is an old rip from audio book cassettes I got from the library It wasn t abridged was read by Frank Muller or Mueller He did a great Brainteaser Physics jobThis novel is now 110 years old You should have read it or at least be familiar with the overall story line through one of the movies Edward G Robinson 1941 or Charles Bronson 1993 were perfect picks for Wolf Larsen Christopher Reeves as Humphrey van Weyden was perfect too See update below If you haven t then beware Spoilers Below As far as bad asses go Larsen could give lessons While he completely lacks empathy he s uite the practical psychologist He out thinks all his opponents that means everyone or beats the crap out of them if that seems the reasonable or most expedient thing to do He hurt Hump s arm for days simply by gripping it briefly He killed men without a ualm usually with enjoymentWhen he decided to poach his brother s hunters he takes one down to his cabin alone for a discussion He towered like a Goliath above Wolf Larsen He must have measured six feet eight or nine inches in stature and I subseuently learned his weight 240 pounds And there was no fat about him It was all bone and muscleA fight is heard Larsen emerges a bit red faced from exertion but otherwise unharmed The giant is carried outIn many ways Larsen reminds me of one of Ayn Rand s heroes if he d been raised as a savage Larsen certainly acts as if he had to fight for every scrap since he was a babe which makes his intellectual accomplishments the amazing his lack of any hint of empathy or society even worse Larsen says it is simply a lack of opportunity that he didn t outdo The Corsican Napoleon I believe himLarsen s basic philosophy is described here And the highest finest right conduct I Hump interjected is that act which benefits at the same time the man his children and his race I wouldn t stand for that he replied Couldn t see the necessity for it nor the common sense I cut out the race and the children I would sacrifice nothing for them It sust so much slush and sentiment and you must see it yourself at least for one who does not believe in eternal life With immortality before me altruism would be a paying business proposition I might elevate my soul to all kinds of altitudes But with nothing eternal before me but death given for a brief spell this yeasty crawling and suirming which is called life why it would be immoral for me to perform any act that was a sacrifice Any sacrifice that makes me lose one crawl or suirm is foolish and not only foolish for it is a wrong against myself and a wicked thing I must not lose one crawl or suirm if I am to get the most out of the ferment Nor will the eternal movelessness that is coming to me be made easier or harder by the sacrifices or selfishnesses of the time when I was yeasty and acrawl Larsen is a noble creature though Note I did not write human He s akin to a shark in his single minded voracity than his namesake which is a social animal although not thought so by London If nothing else he s admirable simply because he s such a perfect bastard much like Lucifer to whom he is likenedWhile he has all his faculties about him Larsen is almost god like When they fail he becomes an object of pity to Hump Maud although he certainly asks for none does his best to reject it The hell he descends into is a fitting end too Nothing could be a worse punishment for him he certainly deserves plentyHump Maud certainly found themselves under Larsen s tutelage I d say they owe him a great debt but one doesn t owe anything to the predator or the natural forces of the world One survives them or is eaten At the end of the novel I can imagine both going on to doing great things Both were wasted in their previous lives mere drones that were awakened into their full powers by the adversity they faced overcame I doubt much in the way of physical or mental hardship will ever daunt them They also found their moral limits Stupid as they were they owned them well Like their teacher they were comfortable with themselves an awesome state of beingUpdate 9Jan2014 I watched the 1993 version of this movie with Charles Bronson Christopher Reeves Both were perfect for their parts as I suspected they would be The movie wasn t entirely faithful to the book but it did stick to the theme pretty well The romance was done far better but Bronson didn t directly give the philosophical speech I uoted above That was a shame but it was still well worth watching This terrific tale of the sea is character driven Also a study of human nature Life death courage hope for survival immortality and love A really good but under rated read Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself And it is of course overestimated for it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour Take that man I had aloft He held on as if he were a precious thing a treasure beyond diamonds of rubies To you No To me Not at all To himself Yes But I do not accept his estimate He sadly overrates himself There is plenty life demanding to be born Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from the comb there would have been no loss to the world The supply is too large I remember watching the tv adaptation of Jack London s The Sea Wolf with my gran but all I remember are images of sails and the ocean I don t remember anything of the story from that time So when The Sea Wolf came up as a buddy read I Collecting Shakespeare jumped right on itThe story is told by Humphrey van Weyden a wannabe author and self professed gentleman who is shipwrecked and picked up by the crew of The Ghost and their Captain Wolf Larsen Contrary to Humphrey s Hump s expectations he is not set ashore but is Shanghaied by Larsen who is short of crew and short of timeWhile on board Hump transforms from a man of thought into a man of action while witnessing the brutality of life at sea and especially the brutality of The Sea Wolf Captain Larsen Wolf tis what he is He s not blackhearted like some men Tis no heart he has at all It s an interesting book in which London explores human motivation and philosophises about the meaning of life and the value that society attaches to one profession over another It is not always easy to follow London s train of thought however and it is not at all clear whether some of the views are the author s ownIn some ways I was reminded of Verne s 20000 Leagues under the Sea with its anti hero Captain Nemo whose disdain for human society somewhat parallels that of Larsen except that Nemo had reason that are relatable than those of LarsenThe Sea Wolf remains a mystery until the endDespite this tho the story works even asust a simple story of adventureThe only aspect that really grated on me was that London felt it necessary to add an element of romance into the adventure and side Hump with a lady The Phenomena and Diosemeia of Aratus journalist who he falls in love with This is not the grating bit The grating bit is that she s a pretty strong character and her falling for Hump who is a patronising wimp is pretty unlikely It s Hump s interaction with the ladyournalist and his description of her as feeble and weak even though she does than her fair share of manual labour on the ship that really made me want to kick him over board You are one with a crowd of men who have made what they call a government who are masters of all the other men and who eat the food the other men get and would like to eat themselves You wear the warm clothes They made the clothes but they shiver in rags and ask you the lawyer or business agent who handles your money for a ob But that is beside the matter I criedNot at all It is piggishness and it is life Of what use or sense is an immortality of piggishness What is the end What is it all about You have made no food Yet the food you have eaten or wasted might have saved the lives of a score of wretches who made the food but did not eat it What immortal end did you serve Or did they I believe that life is a mess Captain Wolf Larson answered promptly It is like yeast a ferment a thing that moves and may move for a minute an hour. The Sea Wolf is a 1904 psychological adventure novel by Jack London about a literary critic Humphrey van WeydenThe story starts with him aboard a San Francisco ferry called Mart.

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Men will commit suicide carries on a conversation as bullets whiz past and beats the snot out of his brother rival sea captain Death Larsen That s right his brother is named Death Larsen And the name s not ust for showHe towered like a Goliath above Wolf Larsen He must have measured six feet eight or nine inches in stature and I subseuently learned his weight 240 pounds And there was no fat about him It was all bone and muscleWolf Larsen s a great character because he s not Early FM Radio just some mindless musclebound brute No he s highly literate and well read and self educated to boot and able to clearly explain why he does what he does as evidenced in the passage above He s able to spar with his opponents notust physically but verbally as wellOK maybe The Sea Wolf isn t great literature but it is brilliantly trashy fun and well written trash at that Why isn t this book as widely read as The Call of the Wild and White Fang Perhaps because most of us stop reading Jack London after unior high school for some reason while The Sea Wolf is the manliest of all manly men s books Lord knows I for one was not ready to encounter Wolf Larsen in unior high school Frankly I m probably not ready for him nowWhat s interesting about The Sea Wolf and I doubt I m the only reader to feel this way is that even though we the readers are presumably supposed to see Wolf Larsen as the book s villain and sympathize with the narrator Humphrey Van Weyden well fuck that Hump yes that is his nickname has a bookish idealistic romantic view of life That final trait comes to the forefront after love interest Maud Brewster shows up halfway through the book Those character traits simply pale in comparison to Wolf Larsen s kick ass every man for himself pragmatism I think it s the rare reader or at least the rare male reader who even though he likely has much in common with Hump than with Wolf Larsen wouldn t had he the option choose to be the latter London may have even intended the book to be read that wayThe Sea Wolf s only real weakness comes in its final pages when the romance between Humphrey and Maud becomes sickeningly sweet Wolf Larsen s reaction had he read this section of the book would have been I m guessing Bosh Perhaps London was trying to make up for all the amputations fisticuffs and testosterone drenched manliness in the pages that preceded or maybe compensate for the homoeroticism in Hump s descriptions of Wolf Larsen s physiue London needn t have bothered The book was awesome without the romanceDespite that shortcoming though I highly recommend The Sea Wolf especially to men who wish they were a bit less like Humphrey Van Weyden and a bit like Wolf Larsen This classic adventure on the high seas made into a miniseries in 2009 in the city of Halifax where I live finally some great films being made around here this book is full of terror confusion and mayhem as a man fights for survival with a ruthless sailboat captain and his unruly crew but ultimately they make peace with him a Millionaire Humphrey van Weyden a bookish gentleman who reads any was coming back from visiting a close friend in the East Bay shore Crossing the waters to San Francisco again his ferry boat collides in the thick fog with a steamer uickly sinking her the dilettante can t swim good thing he has a life preserver on going overboard amid piercing cries in the gloom drifting in the chilly waters out through the Golden Gate before the bridge was built The tides and winds sweeping him to the open sea rescue vessels can t see MrWeyden in the pea soup nobody around him yet a uiet calm prevails It makes the survivor very distraught knowing the end is near he screams futility into the darkness despairingly and slowly going insane Numbness through his whole body as time goes by but how much elapses Sleep takes the victim into another world but he awakes and sees a three masted schooner heading directly at the lonely man Barely missing his skull watching the uncaring boat pass by helpless to shout out Humphrey dead tired has no voice left too much seawater consumed Captain Wolf Larsen spots the tiny object in the ocean brought on board later thinking was this good or bad Asking to be taken back to the city the captain of the Ghost refuses he s heading for Japan this is a seal hunting schooner not a pleasure cruise Owner captain tyrant his word rules the twenty seamen hate him with a passion they the worst of the scum criminals killers thieves on any sea But are afraid of the Wolf he has killed many making the wealthy man a cabin boy at 35 working in the galley with the slimy dirty filthy disgusting Cooky and he s the cook Treating the millionaire like a lowly slave the vicious chef delights in tormenting Weyden whose choice is work or die Survival of the fittest Wolf Larsen believes that a very strange combination of intellect and brute strength discussing philosophy and literature life is valueless except to itself With the newest crewman Hump between terrorizing everyone on the vessel and putting down a deadly mutiny the captain has a brother too Death Larsen arch rival on another seal hunting steamer owner skipper of the well armed larger Macedonia and in the area Trouble is coming the ocean is vast but the seals are in the same place they the siblings hate each other with enthusiasm The seals blood flows freely on deck as the beautiful animals are butchered for their skins why For women s coats Humphrey has to somehow escape this hell hole Leaving the Ghost is not easy if he stays the primitive Wolf Larsen will kill him someday Complications arrive five people are rescued off the stormy coast of Japan shipwrecked four are immediately made crewmen whether they want to be or not There have been losses on the Ghost one is a womanMaud Brewster a poetess this is 1904 the lonely gentleman has read her poems and enjoyed them He starts to fall in love and he a part time literary critic and reviewer of her work in magazinesOne of the best Jack London novels full of terrific adventures and excitement with splendid characters especially the unforgettable Wolf Larsen this has gotta be one of the biggest piece of shit pulpy ridiculous shitshows of a novel ever and i freely admit that i love it yeah that s right this is my Valley of the Dolls here s the deal an effete bookworm gets on a boat that crashes Religious Authority in the Spanish Renaissance just off the san fransiscan coast and is scooped out of the water and brought onto the seal hunting Ghost headed to Japan and captained by Wolf Larson the darkest most demented and brutal guy to walk the planet this guy makes ahab kurtz and bligh look like merril fucking stubing no shit and he s got a brother named Death Death Larson and Wolf Larson i mean c mon Death Larson golden bearded like a sea king six feet eight or nine inches in stature 240 pounds And there was no fat on him It was all bone and muscleour faithful narrator one wait for it wait for it Hump Van Weydon describes Wolf as not immoral merely unmoral forget leopold loeb or raskalnikov Wolf Larson is the true nietzschean superman here s a typical bit of dialogue that Wolf happily spews while observing one of his crewmen Look at him Hump Look at this bit of animated dust this aggregation of matter that moves and breathes and defies me and thoroughly believes itself to be compounded of something good that is impressed with certain fictions such as righteousness and honestyin another scene to fully express the idea that the human animal can never fully accept death even if the intellect believes it has Wolf strangles Hump into unconsciousness while waxing philosophic on the old bodymind dialectic purty cool through the course of the book Wolf Larson beats the shit out of multiple men at once climbs a ladder with attackers hanging off his arms back and legs he beats the crap out of Hump Johnson Leach Johanson Cooky and yes even Death Larson he beats up a shark yes a shark after tossing Mugridge overboard Wolf spies a shark fin and with a single arm he hoists Mugridge out the sharks leaps out of the water and bites off Mugridge s foot naturally while the crew scrambles for a tourniuet Wolf s gotta teach the shark a lesson later on Wolf tries to set himself on fire laughs when knives are thrown at him and finally he fully enjoys it as his brain slowly shuts down yeah you read that right unfortunately the book gets kind of good y know really good not like gloriously deranged good at the end when Hump Maud Brewster the fast talking NYC poetess and Wolf get shipwrecked on a tiny island inhabited by angry seals and some kind of mysterious neurological condition shuts down Wolf s body bit by bit eventually reducing him to a blind deaf mute uadriplegic who conveys his profound and nihilisticoy at the universe s ultimate fuck you by flashing a crooked smile and tapping messages out with a single fingeryou really gotta read this shit to believe it it s fucking great it s the book that Uma Thurman s character in Sweet and Lowdown would have written it s the book i wish i d written and i gotta profess a deep love for The Intentional Brain jack london multiple novels about dogs and now this fuck yes man you are my hero i spent this past new year s at london s favorite bar The First and Last Chance Saloon named such as it s right on the water the sailor s first chance to get drunk upon arrival and last chance upon departure the very bar whereack london wrote The Sea Wolf explains a lot he must ve been shitfaced when he wrote this madhouse absofuckinglutelywell don t know if i wanna give this five stars or one star so i ll be a total pussy and give it three. The Ghost Brutal and cynical yet also highly intelligent and intellectual he rules over his ship and terrorizes the crew with the aid of his exceptionally great physical strengt.

A year or a hundred years but that in the end will cease to move The big eat the little that they may continue to move the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength The lucky eat the most and move the longest that is all Jack London The Sea WolfThis is ust like Moby Dick if Moby Dick had been written by Hemingway That s a good thing Of all the classics I ve read sometimes grudgingly Moby Dick frustrated me the most I like everything about it in theory It is epic in scope big in ideas and populated by fascinating characters It has whales and ships and tyrannical captains and harpoons which are some pretty good ingredients if you ask me But I despised it Turns out I should have been reading The Sea Wolf instead There are some differences of course Both have ships but in The Sea Wolf you substitute seals for whales and rifles for harpoons Also where Moby Dick is bloated and obscure The Sea Wolf is blunt pared down and direct It is a flint hard epic told in a lean mean 281 pages in my Modern Library paperback edition I ve often found that reading an alleged classic means that I m in for an intellectual struggle Not here The Sea Wolf reads like a modern page turner London does not mess around with long setups The novel starts with Humphrey Van Weyden a doughy soft handed trust fund lad with literary aspirations on the deck of a ferry in San Francisco Bay espousing his unearned opinions about the mathematical ease of seamanship Before he can finish that thought and before the end of the fourth full page that ferry has been sliced open in a collision with a second ship dumping Humphrey into the sea Humphrey a proto metrosexual is picked up by a sealing schooner called the Ghost The Ghost is captained by one of literature s great creations Captain Wolf Larson Larson is a stunning character by turns brutal and brilliant part psychopath and part poet He is described in almost otherworldly terms by Humphrey who is the novel s first person narratorMy first impression or feel of the man was not of his height but of his strength And yet while he was of massive build with broad shoulders and deep chest I could not characterize his strength as massive It was what might be termed a sinewy knotty strength of the kind we ascribe to lean and wiry men but which in him because of his heavy build partook of the enlarged gorilla order Not that in appearance he seemed in the least gorilla like What I am striving to express is this strength itself as a thing apart from his physical semblance It was a strength we are wont to associate with things primitive with wild animals and the creatures we imagine our tree dwelling prototypes to have been a strength savage ferocious alive in itself the essence of life in that it is the potency of motion the elemental in short that which writhes in the body of a snake when the head is cut off and the snake as a snake is dead or which lingers in a shapeless lump of turtle meat and recoils and uivers from the prod of a fingerFor the bulk of the novel up until a plot turn that I will not reveal the narrative is rather episodic Scenes of action and acclimation where Humphrey begins to transform into that which he detests are interspersed with a dialectic between Humphrey and Larson The two men are philosophical opposites with Humphrey representing a familiar strand of liberal humanism concerned with goodness right action and the immortal soul In opposition Larson is a kind of Nietzschean narcissist concerned only with himself and achieving his own ends whatever the cost to others Humphrey is initially appalled by Larson a stance he attempts to maintain even as he nurtures a near obsession with understanding him Of course as you might expect Humphrey is drawn to certain aspects of Larson s being Specifically he starts to reevaluate himself as he grows harder stronger a competent seaman while toiling on the Ghost This is in a way simultaneously a celebration and a deconstruction of masculinity The Sea Wolf is really a oy to read The secondary characters are mostly excellent if a bit shallow There are some memorable dramatic set pieces featuring men against nature and men against other men The writing is vivid especially the descriptions of the sea of storms and sualls and dead calms London is also uite adept at capturing the functioning of a turn of the century sailing vessel He was once on a vessel like the Ghost and that experience shows I am often leery of books that attempt to have characters debate the deeper meanings of life When I read them I feel like I ve stumbled into a room full of half baked freshmen who ve finished half a semester of Philosophy 101 The Sea Wolf has a tendency to get close to this threshold with the interactions between Humphrey and Wolf Ultimately though it wears its philosophical and psychological complexity lightly I could swallow their endless debates because they were sweetened by scenes of dash and excitement while their competing theories were demonstrated with instances of primal brutality In other words London does a good Maryland in Black and White job of showing and telling rather thanust telling He is also almost giddy in the way he mixes genres and changes tones One moment things are super dark the next things might be as light and delicate as new fallen snow And yes I know I m speaking in riddles but I don t want to ruin any surprises This is an imperfect novel While the relationship between Humphrey and Wolf Larson is mesmerizing a separate pairing later on does not work nearly so well Even when there are false notes though London keeps the tale afloat His world of sailors and their ship and the sea is so fully realized that it makes up for many if not all shortcomings Besides at less than 300 pages the kind of imperfections I m talking about are not fatal I cannot say the same for the imperfections of Moby Dick Classics can be a chore Not this one This is like eating a candy bar and calling it exercise The Sea Wolf Jack LondonThe Sea Wolf is a 1904 psychological adventure novel by American novelist Jack London The book s protagonist Humphrey van Weyden is a literary critic who is a survivor of an ocean collision and who comes under the dominance of Wolf Larsen the powerful and amoral sea captain who rescues him Its first printing of forty thousand copies was immediately sold out before publication on the strength of London s previous The Call of the Wild 1972 1339 1345 415 320 280 1394 378 9786001215490 19 36 1362 264 1370 144 1386 1387 148 9789645967183 1388 9789642621859 13 212 1371 259 1904 Jack London s take on Nietzsches s dubious concept of the bermenschIn the confined space of a seal hunting schooner in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the most captivating antagonist ever captain Wolf Larson highly intelligent with superhuman physical strength have it out with the somewhat stodgy protagonist Van Weyden an intellectual bookworm scholar and landlubber Their philosophies and views on life couldn t be differentThe whole thing is embedded in an exciting adventure on high seas and spiced with a love story at the end which to my taste is a little bland A recommended read for fans of adventure philosophy in which sometimes bones get broken to underpin an argumentThe book confirms the impression I already had after reading The Iron Heel namely to regard Jack London as a serious writerUpdate 1272018While reading the criticalannotated edition of Hitler s Mein Kampf I didn t expect to find a uote from The Sea Wolf in one of the footnotes Hitler s notion of Race interests as trumping any moral notions and that ethics is never entitled to a timeless validity contrary to Kant s beliefs can also be found much earlier among epigones of social Darwinism even in popular culture Jack London s character Wolf Larson answers to the uestion of ethics and if he believes in right and wrong Not the least bit Might is right and that is all there is to it Weakness is wrong One man cannot wrong another man He can only wrong himself As I see it I do wrong always when I consider the interests of others This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 30 Unported License We were talking about this yesterday he said I held that life was a ferment a yeasty something which devoured life that it might live and that living was merely successful piggishness Why if there is anything in supply and demand life is the cheapest thing in the world There is only so much water so much earth so much air but the life that is demanding to be born is limitless Nature is a spendthrift Look at the fish and their millions of eggs For that matter look at you and me In our loins are the possibilities of millions of lives Could we but find time and opportunity and utilize the last bit and every bit of the unborn life that is in us we could become the fathers of nations and populate continents Life Bah It has no value Of cheap things it is the cheapest Everywhere it goes begging Nature spills it out with a lavish hand Where there is room for one life she sows a thousand lives and it s life eats life till the strongest and most piggish life is leftThose are the words of Wolf Larsen arguably the baddest bad ass ever to grace the pages of any seafaring novel including those by Melville and Conrad and perhaps any novel overall Wolf Larsen captain of a hunting vessel beats up several men at once hard bitten sailors and seal hunters among them chokes one of his men to win an argument fixes a shark to starve to death revenge for the shark having bitten a sailor s foot clean off wagers which of his. Inez which collides with another ship in the fog and sinks He is set adrift in the Bay eventually being picked up by Wolf LarsenLarsen is the captain of a seal hunting schooner.

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Jack London was an American novelist journalist social activist and short story writer whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival At his peak he was the highest paid and the most popular of all living writers Because of early financial difficulties he was largely self educated past grammar schoolLondon drew heavily on his life experiences in his writing He spent ti