Synopses & Reviews
A thrilling epic of a sea voyage and a complex novel of ideas, The Sea-Wolf
is a standard-bearer of its genre. It is the vivid story of a gentleman scholar, Humphrey Van Weyden, who is rescued by a seal-hunting schooner after a ferryboat accident in San Francisco Bay. London uses Van Weyden's ordeal at the hands of a schooner's devious crew to explore powerful themes of ambition, courage, and the innate will to survive.
The Sea-Wolf also introduces Jack London's most memorable, fully realized character, Wolf Larsen, the schooner's brutal captain, who ruthlessly crushes anyone standing in his way.
As Gary Kinder states in his Introduction, "Wolf Larsen is one of the most carefully carved characters in American literature....London, himself, seems as fascinated as the reader with his own creation."
"London's...is a vision of exceptional and crucial vitality." James Dickey
About the Author
Jack London (1876-1916) was an American writer who produced two hundred short stories, more than four hundred nonfiction pieces, twenty novels, and three full-length plays in less than two decades. His best-known works include The Call of the Wild, The Sea-Wolf, and White Fang.
Reading Group Guide
1. Wolf Larsen is arguably Jack London's most memorable human character. Discuss your reaction to him.
2. Carl Sandburg contends that Wolf Larsen represents "The System Incarnate," ruthlessly discarding anything in the way of his own agenda. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Why?
3. Humphrey Van Weyden and Maud Brewster and their civilized, almost spiritual mores stand in brutal contrast to the tyrannical Larsen, providing a dichotomy that persists throughout the novel. In light of this moral conflict London explores, what do you make of the book's closing sections?
4. Many critics have discussed London's socialist leanings. How do you think this influence informs the novel, if at all?
5. What do you think is the metaphorical significance of London's depicting most of the story aboard a ship?
6. Discuss Maud Brewster's role in the book. What is her significance to Van Weyden and to Larsen?
7. Did you think Larsen's morals were inherent or learned? Why?