Novelist, journalist, and social activist Jack London (1876-1916) rose from abject poverty to international fame. The bestselling, highest-paid, and most popular author of his era, London created a substantial body of work in his short life, drawing upon his experiences as a cannery worker, sailor, railroad hobo, and prospector.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Sea Wolf (Naxos Audio)?
Seawolf May 31, 2008
My son needed this book for assigned reading at school. The book quality itself is as with any new book, perfect. As for the story line, like I said, it was assigned reading. Jack London has written some classic stories, but I can't say they are considered to be among the books that your child "just can't put down" while reading.. (except for the fact that we won't let them put it down until they are done with the assignment) My son is in 6th grade, but I believe this book is most likely for 8th grade or higher when given as assigned reading for school, since he goes to a gifted school. They typically read books 2 - 3 grade years ahead in his classes. It will go on the book shelf in our home library among the classics, though not among the most cherished for enjoyment.
Intense and seaching May 22, 2008
I wish I had read this book in high school. I didn't get to it until much later in life. London knows his subject and in this case it's the conflict of man versus man, philosophy versus philosophy wrapped in a case of a diabolical captain against a gentleman. The discourses between these two never bog down and the action on the sea and land alike are edge of the seat brilliant. Take one side or the other, but you will be left searching your soul after reading this intense classic by a master of the writing craft.
London's great sea tale Mar 9, 2008
What Jack London sought to depict in many of his short stories and novels was the realistic, unforgiving brutality associated with man and nature, and, in this regard, The Sea Wolf does not disappoint. The first conflict comes when Humphrey Van Weyden is rescued by a boat after an accident, but little does the protagonist know what he is truly in for, as he will experience a figurative Hell for a good deal of time on board the Ghost. Juxtaposed by Wolf Larson, a character inspired by Milton's Lucifer in Paradise Lost, Van Weyden, a simple "bookish" literary man of thirty-five, must transform in order to sustain a barbaric and eye-opening ride.
Perhaps what separates Wolf Larson from your prototypical villain is that there are moments where Van Weyden can see the philosophical, profound, well-read side of the captain. While the two are as far apart as any two characters can be in their beliefs, backgrounds, or physical appearance, they seem to be on a parallel plane when it comes to their talks about Man's existence, despite the fact that they "agree to disagree" on these various subjects.
The book's most prevalent theme is survival--physically and psychologically. Van Weyden transforms himself somewhat in order to exist, yet he is not consumed by the savagery he witnesses aboard the Ghost. While he has a hard time acting on instincts, there is one point where there is a revolt from Larson in his conscience, which separates any notion that he will give in: "Wolf Larson it was, always Wolf Larson, enslaver and tormentor of men, a male Circe and these his swine, suffering brutes that groveled before him and revolted only in drunkenness and secrecy. And was I, too, one of his swine? ...No!...I would work my will through it all, in spite of Wolf Larson...All would be well." Yet, ironically, much of what Van Weyden learns from what he witnesses from Larson and the other men is critical in his survival later on.
Another impressive element is London's command of description and detail. He has a way of illustrating a moment of peril, or foreshadowing, or profiling a character. One example is Van Weyden's commentary while looking out to see, while thinking about the Ghost's fate: "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." The protagonist seems to know that something is amiss with the Ghost, and, like Melville's Pequod in Moby Dick, there is an ominous feeling on doom on board.
One criticism is the later part of the novel, where it gets a little too romanticized and lovey-dovey with Maud and Humphrey. It just seemed a little too forced. Some of the parts seemed to lag a little also towards the end, and the descriptions got a little too detailed about how to prepare a vessel for voyage off of Endeavor Island.
Still, over all, it was an impressive read. If you're looking for a book about courage and survival, then this is a great book to check out!
An epic tale. Unfortunately most people miss the subtle moral that emerges at the end. Jan 17, 2008
I will give my personal opinions and insights I gained from this book. You can read detailed plot summaries elsewhere.
The most exciting aspect of London's writing here is his narration of Humphrey Van Weyden's thoughts, his psychological reactions to Captain "Wolf" Larson and the conditions he finds himself in aboard the Ghost. Larson is first introduced as an ubermensch-like caricature, a feared tyrant with superhuman strength. In the early parts of the book Larson is idolized for his ideals of toughness and self-reliance which are in stark contrast to Humphrey's pampered upbringing. He is feared and admired for his great strength, even while he is simultaneously hated for his extreme cruelty and pettiness. As the book progresses, Larson's complexity is slowly revealed through his interaction with Humphrey. It turns out that Larson, despite his brutality, is a brilliant self-educated man. Humphrey is the only person with enough education to have an intellectual dialog with the Larson, but Larson's newfound favoritism for Humphrey creates tension between Humphrey and the other crew members.
Later on the more vulnerable side of Larson emerges. He is afflicted with severe headaches and bouts of depression. At the same time the social Darwinist microcosm he created on board the Ghost begins to backfire on him. Needless violent conflicts, uprisings, and acts of mutiny are common. The only thing that unites the crew is their shared fear and hatred for Larson.
Later Humphrey finds companionship with an educated writer, Maud, who happens aboard the ship. They fall in love and together decide to escape to an island. Humphrey's relationship with Maud and their struggle to survive causes Humphrey to re-evaluate his stance on individualism somewhat. It's shown that love and empathy can also be a source of strength that enhances the will to survive.
Towards the end of the book the Ghost washes up on the island. Larson's crew has abandoned him and he is seen going mad. He is afflicted with a brain tumor and dies in front of Humphrey. Though not explicitly stated, I got the impression that the brain tumor could be an explanation for Larson's sociopath tendencies. Larson's lack of empathy is a weakness, not strength as originally assumed.
Anyways, these are my insights. I can't give 5 stars because though there are a few places where the story gets slightly bogged down. The portion of the book about Humphrey's love affair with Maud on the island could have been better. Also, some might not have patience for all the nautical detail. It's easy to skim past the slow parts though.
An American Classic Oct 7, 2007
I was quite surprised by Jack London's novel, The Sea Wolf. In fact, I rather enjoyed reading this book about a man at sea, Humphrey Van Weyden, aboard the ship, The Ghost, appropriately titled and a good metaphor. Aboard the ship, Van Weyden narrates his life at sea and the battles aboard the ship amongst the other sailors and the Captain Wolf Larsen who is also known as the Sea Wolf. The arrival of Maud Brewster adds romance to lonely Humphrey's sailing career. They have quite a story to tell as they leave the ship for Endeavor Island where they learn to survive in the Alaskan landscape in the early 1900s with barely the clothes on their back and their limited knowledge. It's like survivor without television cameras and there is only two people, a man and a woman on a desert island. Remember that question about who you would like to be stuck with on a desert island? Well, this book must have inspired such a philosophical question or wish. Maud and Humphrey get their wish to be alone but it's a struggle against nature. Jack London's writing style comes across with such flair that I believe he is the one of the most under-rated of American writers. Granted, we read his books in middle or high school but the older reader would gradually benefit and understand the depth of the narrator's voice with this book. Jack London should be regarded as one of America's foremost authors even with his focus on nature that his books are still selling and classic story-telling.