The Sea-Wolf

SeaWolfSuggested by Brad Nelson • A man is forcibly conscripted onto a boat with the brutal captain. Bloody fights are regular. The air is one of aggression and sadism. This is a side of life that Mr. Van Weyden, the erstwhile literary scholar and man of leisure and freedom, had never known. And it’s starting to effect him.
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One Response to The Sea-Wolf

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is just a stone’s throw from the movie “Captain Courageous” which is based on a Kipling story. And it’s also a movie in its own right starring Edward G. Robinson as the harsh Wolf Larsen.

    I frankly loved this book. It’s an exciting story and you get some stunningly good philosophy. Ol’ Wolf Larsen (captain of the sealing schooner, Ghost), is a combination of complete primal brute and thoughtful, sensitive poet.

    An article at Wiki says that “The Sea-Wolf” was London’s response to Nietzsche’s super-man philosophy (which I believe is much of the thrust of Nietzsche’s book, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” which I may one day read).

    Be that as it may, London surely seems to be having great fun setting out both sides of the debate, the materialist vs. the idealist; those who believe in the here and now only (and a brutal “here and now” it is) and those who see grander, even immortal, things in humans. And don’t go thinking this is high-brow stuff that is thick and hard to read. I’m down on my knees so far constantly in the “I’m not worthy” position when reading London’s artful writing. This is really good stuff. What a tremendous talent.

    The main character of the story, the gentleman, Mr. Van Weyden, has been forcibly conscripted onto this insane boat with the brutal captain, Wolf Larsen. Bloody fights are regular. The air is one of aggression and sadism. This is a side of life that Mr. Van Weyden, the erstwhile literary scholar and man of leisure and freedom, had never known. And it’s starting to effect him:

    The worst appeared inevitable; and as I paced the deck, hour after hour, I found myself afflicted with Wolf Larsen’s repulsive ideas. What was it all about? Where was the grandeur of life that it should permit such wanton destruction of human souls? It was a cheap and sordid thing after all, this life, and the sooner over the better. Over and done with! I, too, leaned upon the rail and gazed longingly into the sea, with the certainty that sooner or later I should be sinking down, down, through the cool green depths of its oblivion.

    Wolf Larsen dispenses a philosophy that seems quite indisputable. Life is harsh. We all do seem to be like…

    …yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, 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. What do you make of those things?”

    Wolf spells it out again and again in such candor. The book is full of provocative and extremely thoughtful dialogue between Wolf and Mr. Van Weyden, a dialogue Wolf has clearly been thirsting for and had not found until he had run into the quite erudite Mr. Van Weyden. And they spend much of their time on the ship (when not dodging the murderous crew) engaged in deep and probing conversations, and often antagonistic ones at times.

    I shan’t say more other than this is a fun adventure novel as well. You can get if for free for your electronic book at Gutenberg.org. Having read this a couple years ago, it got me on a spate of Jack London and other seafaring stories including The Sea Lions and The Red Rover by James Fenimore Cooper

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