The Sea-Wolf

by

Jack London

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The Sea-Wolf: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Wolf Larsen stops cursing over the dying man and orders Mugridge the cook to get back to work. He asks if anyone has a prayer book to say a ceremony for the dead man, then he asks if the narrator is a preacher. The narrator informs Larsen that he’s not—that, in fact, his profession is “a gentleman.” Wolf sneers and accuses the narrator of living off his father’s work.
The fact that everyone on the ship goes back to work soon after the funeral illustrates how death is a regular and expected part of life at sea. Though such a life is difficult, it also means that the sailors are very self-reliant, which is why Wolf Larsen is so dismissive of the narrator and his inheritance.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Idealism Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Quotes
The narrator asks Wolf Larsen to take him home at once, but Larsen makes an offer instead: the death of his mate will require him to promote other sailors,  which will leave an opening for the low-ranking position of cabin boy. Wolf wants the narrator to take the role of cabin boy, and he doesn’t seem to offer the narrator much choice.
That Wolf Larsen is more concerned about filling the dead mate’s position than mourning him illustrate Wolf Larsen’s indifference toward death. Wolf’s harsh pragmatism contrasts with the narrator’s more sheltered perspective—for Van Weyden, death is rare and sacred.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Idealism Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Wolf Larsen calls for Mugridge, who brings out a cabin boy. The cabin boy gives his name as George Leach but seems to be lying. Wolf Larsen orders the cabin boy around, and the narrator is afraid of what will happen if he himself becomes a cabin boy. When another vessel passes, the narrator suddenly runs to the side and shouts that he’ll pay a thousand dollars to anyone who takes him home. Wolf Larsen claims the narrator is just delusional, and the ship passes.
The fact that the narrator’s money doesn’t help him on the ship suggests that even wealth and social status have limits on their influence, particularly when out in nature. Wolf Larsen’s refusal of the money is a bad business decision, so it suggests that he has some other set of principles, even if these principles are very different from the narrator’s morality.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Idealism Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
The narrator resigns himself to being a cabin boy and gives his name as Humphrey Van Weyden. He is 35 years old. They whole crew convenes to  bury the dead man at sea, and the ritual isn’t as solemn as Van Weyden expected it to be. There are the sailors (who are mainly English and Scandinavian) and then there are the seal hunters (who come from a wider range of backgrounds). Afterward, Wolf Larsen orders the whole crew to prepare for harsh conditions.
The narrator is older than a protagonist in a coming-of-age story would typically be, but his story nevertheless follows the trajectory of a coming-of-age story—he progresses from less experienced at sea to more experienced. This suggests how wealth and a sedentary life can cause a person to remain in a state of extended adolescence, whereas harsh conditions force people to grow up quickly.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
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