Last Updated 15 Apr 2020

The Sea Wolf

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The crew of the seal hunting ship the Ghost stood in disbelief as they gazed upon their recently departed first mate. Then a most unusual thing occurred. The captain began yelling at the dead man like a raging storm. Oaths rolled from his lips in a continuous stream. And they were not nice and thoughtful words or mere expressions of indecency. Each word was a blasphemy, and there were many words. It is this lack of remorse for others that defines Wolf Larsen, the antagonist in The Seal Wolf by Jack London. From the beginning of the book you are introduced to the contrast of characters at hand.

The feeble gentleman Humphrey Van Weydon, who is cruelly forced upon the voyage, and the devilish and somewhat divine captain Wolf Larsen. This combination of good and evil sets the stage for an amazing battle of wit and perseverance. But to understand the great battle between these two men, you have to understand the almost invincible nature of Captain Wolf Larsen. Wolf is a five foot ten inch, tan skinned brute. His height is not at all the most striking characteristic of the captain. His amazing muscular build and strength rival that of an enlarged gorilla.

In fact, the author repeatedly compares Wolfs immense strength with that of a wild animal. The name London gives him is perfect to describe his nature. It is this godlike ability to kill anyone with his bare hands that keeps the crew in fear of him. There is a scene in the book where the crew attempted mutiny on the lone captain. The men jumped all over his back and from then on Wolf Larsen had seven strong men on top of him. The forecastle was like an angry hive of bees aroused by some intruder. No man less than a giant could have accomplished what Wolf Larsen did next.

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Step by step, by the might of his arms, the whole pack of men striving to drag him back and down, he drew his body up from the floor until he stood upright. The captain then proceeded to make his way up the ladder thus freeing him from this group of murderous tyrants. The whole crew of the Ghost hated Wolf with a great passion, but no one could do anything because his strength and fighting ability were unmatched. The second aspect of Wolf Larsen that makes him so great is his mind. Larsen was born and bred on the sea. Wolf never saw the inside of a schoolhouse.

He taught himself everything he knew by reading the great works of American literature. Poetry and novels are the only thing that can take Wolfs mind off the sea. Through his learning he developed a “live for yourself only” theory on life. You could use such words as egocentric or arrogant to describe Wolfs trust no one attitude. But its easy to see that he got that complete self-reliance from his childhood. Wolf didnt have any parents that ever took care of him. As soon as he was of a decent age (around 10) he was on the boats as a cabin boy making his living.

He taught himself reading and writing. The only thing Wolf could be thankful for is the body he was given, everything else he got on his own. The opposite of his first-mate Mr. Van Weydon, who was brought up with nothing but money, and learned at the finest schools. Wolf Continuously mocks death. More so the death of others around him than his own, but it is clear he does not fear his own demise. He lives his life around the theories of Charles Darwin. He believes that the strongest should survive and he is the strongest therefore nothing should stand in his way.

Wolfs thinks of himself as godly, where as the rest of his crew would compare him to no other than Lucifer himself. It becomes evident by the end of the novel that the only that is able to defeat Wolf is himself. London is never clear on what exactly kills Wolf Larsen, but it is deeply implied that a brain tumor slowing eats away at him taking away his senses one by one. “Good-bye, Lucifer, proud spirit,” Maud whispered. Those were the last words echoed as Wolf Larsens body was cast into the deep blue. The epic final chapter to a life matched in comparison by few. The life of The Sea Wolf.

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