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The Sea Wolf (1904)

af Jack London

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  BooksInMirror | Feb 19, 2024 |
The Sea Wolf, a classic originally published in 1904 by Jack London (1876-1916) at age 28. This novel was based on his experience from his 1893 seal-hunting voyage out of Alaska when he was only 17 years old. According to the Jack London State Historic Park (Glen Ellen, California) website, and the place where his ashes were buried, Jack had kidney failure more than likely from late-stage alcoholism and possibly from a few diseases he had caught earlier while traveling around the world, such as scurvy from the Klondike and yaws from the tropics, and was on heavy morphine at the time of his death. He went into a coma shortly before dying on November 22, 1916 at age 40.

This is my first Jack London novel, and it was nothing what I expected it to be, which I thought was going to be a long drawn out story about seal hunting, one I’d regret ever diving into. Nope! This story brought out so many different emotions from start to finish. I will say it would have helped had I known just a little bit about the parts of a sailing vessel, such as a windlass, halyards and shears, topmasts, foremast, booms, gaffs, poop deck, and other parts of the vessel. I couldn’t picture the magnitude of the work they had to do on the rigging before escaping Endeaver Island at the end of the book. Still, it was every bit a psychological adventure as promised.

Wolf Larson, the ruthless captain of the schooner “Ghost”, a seal-hunting vessel, which was just leaving San Francisco and bound for Japan, scooped 35-year-old Humphrey Van Weyden out of the water near the Golden Gate Bridge just in time, then kept steaming on out of the bay into the Pacific and away. Humphrey was an unfortunate victim off the sinking of the ferry boat, the “Martinez”, which had just collided with another boat in the heavy fog. But, you could feel his panic and desparation set in as Humphrey watched the bay of San Francisco pass them by, and he watched, right before his eyes, as the captain and the 20 rough looking crew members showed total disregard for a dying crew member on deck. Humphrey begged and even offered to pay the captain $1000 to be returned to the dock. The captain laughed and the “Ghost” never slowed. It continued on out, and seeing a vessel approaching, heading in to the San Francisco port, and in passing he tried to wave it down and offered $1000 to return him to land. No deal. It kept on steaming by. Humphrey looked back and could still see the fog covering the bay as they headed out deeper and deeper into the Pacific for God knows how long. Weeks? Months? He was definitely trapped and this evil, maniacal Captain Larson was about to teach him a thing or two about survival and the realities of life.

Humphrey was a trust-fund baby. He never worked a day in his life. His hands were soft, his body was soft, he had no muscles at all to speak of. He considered himself an elitist scholar and a pretentious “dilettante”...you know….enjoying the company and rubbing elbows with other pretentious and prestigious elites. But, Captain Wolf Larson was about to show old “Hump”, a name he would soon accept, just what a useless yeasty ferment he was in life and to society...when real men had to work in life just to eat. The captain inspected Humphrey’s hands and said in disgust, “Dead men’s hands have kept it soft. Good for little else than dish-washing and scullion work.” Not a good start!

Humphrey does learn to stand on his own two feet eventually, and he learns how to work around the captain’s violent tempers. He eventually develops a sort of connection with Captain Larson when he finds he is actually also an educated man and likes to be challenged intellectually. They often would have strong and sometimes violent conversations about philosophy and the immortality of the soul, which Wolf didn’t believe in. But, with the captain’s personality being extremely bipolar, changing at the drop of a hat, every single chapter leaves you wondering what else could happen to poor ol’ Hump.

In time, you see Humphrey transform from a man who can really do nothing for himself to taking on the characteristics of the rough crew members, holding his own and taking charge of his life. All the men were a product of the environment in which they were brought up, including Captain Larson. I felt Humphrey’s fears as each day brought new challenges and struggles with the Captain. The author did a great job evolving the characters. I was happy when he found a way to finally connect with Wolf. Then, at the end, when the captain was losing his power and his hold on life, I can hardly believe it, but I felt sorry for him. The story seemed to also lose a little momentum when Captain Larson lost the leading role. I guess that’s because he had such a dynamic presence in the story, which I really enjoyed watching play out in spite of his evil ways.

"The Sea Wolf" (1941), starring Edward Robinson as Wolf and Alexander Knox as Humphrey Van Weyden.

"Legend of the Sea Wolf" (1975) an Italian film, starring Chuck Conners as Wolf and Giuseppe Pambieri as Humphrey Van Weyden.

"The Sea Wolf" (1993), starring Charles Bronson as Wolf and Christopher Reeve as Humphrey Van Weyden

"The Sea Wolf" (2009) TV mini-series, starring Sebastian Koch as Wolf and Stephen Campbell Moore as Humphrey Van Weyden.

I am ready for a new movie to be put out, and I can only imagine Russell Crowe playing Wolf. Now, that would be awesome. ( )
  MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
This would be a great book if you needed to write a high school English essay. All of its themes are cleanly marked out, all of its characters wear their significance on their sleeves, and the symbolism clots thickly on every page. If I had to write that essay, my thesis statement would probably deal with Wolf Larsen and Maud Brewster and how they ostensibly represent opposite poles in the spectrum of human sensibility (brutality v. intellect), but inwardly they both harbor a sympathy for their foil (Larsen's poetry v. Brewster's seal club).

And it would be a very boring essay.

I liked the book for its mindless virtues -- London's details and brutal anecdotes -- but swiftly felt my interest sliding whenever the characters started debating philosophy. I'll happily read about nastiness on the high seas, but I'm less patient with sock puppets spouting off about "materialism." ( )
  proustbot | Jun 19, 2023 |
Excellent tale of a kidnapped man who truly discovers his manhood on a tumultuous time at sea. ( )
1 stem Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
This novel is my first Jack London that is not an animal or nature tale, but then it mostly deals with the animal nature of a man, so maybe not that different. The Sea Wolf is Captain Wolf Larsen, a seaman who believes in nothing but his own welfare, and stops at no atrocity if he finds it to benefit his own desires. He is materialism and atheism run amok. He is intellectual, without emotion, values nothing but money, including anyone’s life aside from his own, and he has no moral code of any kind.

That London manages to make this character seem real instead of caricature is a bit of miracle in itself. As a foil, London has Larsen impress into service a shipwreck victim, Humphrey Van Weyden. To Hump, as he is called, Larsen expounds upon his philosophy and he and Hump argue the existence of the soul or the worth of a life that is not your own. For me, the repeated conversations became tiring. It was as if London was pounding the issue, but perhaps he was simply engaging in his own struggle with his own beliefs.

What I did like about this book were the passages related to life at sea. I could feel the rising of the storms and the swaying of the ship, and there is a very detailed description of an engineering feat that is so intricately described that you know it would be exactly how the maneuver would be achieved. There is extreme brutality, but it is necessary to the tale being told and it is not so graphic as to make it intolerable to read.

I try not to superimpose the beliefs of an author over the fiction that he writes, but that was hard to avoid with this book. London was an atheist and a socialist, and I am wondering how comfortable he was with either position based upon his arguments in this book.

Finally, there is a love story introduced late in the book that I found improbable, to say the least. I thought about the other London’s I have read and realized none of them contained any women or love stories; they are about rugged individualism and animal instinct. I think he is better suited to that subject.

All in all, I had hoped to like it better. I’m sure I would have liked it less had I been reading alone and not sharing the experience with a group of very savvy readers who helped to keep my interests alive and brought me a balanced view of the extreme philosophy expressed here.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
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Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Jack Londonprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Aylward, W.J.Illustratormedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
BrugueraRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Gannett, LewisIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Martin, FletcherIllustratormedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Sutherland, JohnRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Vigtige steder
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I scarcely know where to begin, though I sometimes facetiously place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth’s credit. He kept a summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, and never occupied it except when he loafed through the winter mouths and read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to rest his brain.
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“One kiss, dear love,” I whispered. “One kiss more before they come.”

“And rescue us from ourselves,” she completed, with a most adorable smile, whimsical as I had never seen it, for it was whimsical with love.
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En historie fra Stillehavet.

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Udgaver: 1909175749, 190917551X


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