Dan's Reviews > The Sea-Wolf

The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
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's review
Dec 14, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: knovels, american-north-lit
Read in March, 2008

I wish I could give it five stars - Larsen alone deserves it. Beauty in desperation, perhaps?
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Daniel Villines Please explain the comment, "Beauty in desperation." I agree that Larsen is worth the extra stars. It's too bad that the story looses some of it's intensity towards the end. I think that London completed the book with its commercial value in mind.

message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Indeed he did - it half (if not moreso) explains the romantic element.

Larsen is a beautiful character. As a lover of with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge - the very image of myself and countless other humans - he possesses an inquisitive and penetrating mind. But the scenery he is set against is brutal - for most men, such as our good Humphrey, it is a state of despair, a life wherein there is only the attempt at holding on to it. For Larsen, it is merely the life he knows. I'm not sure what makes him a beautiful creature, his intellectual curiosity, or his cruelty (which affirms the life he knows), but either way, he shines amidst what doesn't with a non-haughty intellect that is nothing if not beauty in desperation.

The desperation is not only his own (how can one not despair when dying the way he did) but the world around him.

Daniel Villines Nicely said and thank you for defining Larsen so crisply within the context of the setting. You’ve brought to light the reality that London took a big risk in placing a character as complex as Larsen into such a simple setting as a ship at sea. It would had been enough for Van Weyden to have made his journey on his own, but the placement of Larsen into the plot, with all of his complexities, could have easily resulted in a complete melt-down of the story. This all goes to show that Jack London was hungry for even greater successes than his previously published Yukon stories, including The Call of the Wild.

message 4: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan You know, I never even thought of it, but you are right, the story could have worked without Larsen, just Humphrey coming to terms with his brutal surroundings. Of course, it would be in no way the same story! The Sea Wolf is synonymous with Wolf Larsen for me.

I have not read any other Jack London - perhaps I should?

Daniel Villines Yes, I would recommend that you read some additional Jack London. His use of words has always amazed me. To me, he’s the anti-Hemingway. Such a gift for expression by someone who made himself into a writer by dedicating everything that was in him to this singular purpose without any real chance for success.

You have to be careful, though. Many of his works are overly corrupted by his commercial needs and his political views, not that the latter is necessarily a bad thing. His short stories represent the best of his work, White Fang is better than Call of the wild, and his Yukon stories are the best of his short stories.

I have also read Martin Eden, which is somewhat autobiographical. As such, the main character, Martin Eden, is one of his best. I also plan on reading Valley of the Moon at some point in the future.

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