The Sea-Wolf

by

Jack London

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The Sea-Wolf: Chapter 32 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Van Weyden wakes up feeling that something is missing—he realizes that what’s missing is the wind. He goes outside his cabin and is shocked to find the Ghost.
Normally, strong winds accompany sudden reversals of fortune. Here, though, the lack of wind could suggest disorientation, adding a sense of drama.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Nothing is moving on the Ghost. Van Weyden thinks that the crew might still be asleep—which means that he and Maud Brewster might still have time to escape. Instead, he decides to creep aboard the ship with his knife and shotgun and kill Wolf Larsen.
Earlier, Van Weyden ran away from the Ghost in an escape boat; now, he’s ready to face his fears. This shows how his time on the island has strengthened and emboldened him.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Van Weyden boards the Ghost cautiously but finds that it seems to be deserted. Overjoyed, Van Weyden makes plans to cook a surprise breakfast for Maud Brewster. Before he can, though, he runs into Wolf Larsen.
The name of the Ghost becomes particularly appropriate in this passage: the ship is as empty as a ghost town, and Wolf Larsen seems to haunt Van Weyden everywhere he goes.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Van Weyden levels his shotgun at Wolf Larsen. He hesitates for a while, and Wolf Larsen asks him why he doesn’t shoot already. Wolf Larsen tells Van Weyden that his conventional morality won’t allow him to kill an unarmed man, even though Wolf Larsen himself wouldn’t hesitate to do so in the right situation. Van Weyden doesn’t shoot, but he keeps his gun up.
The fact that Van Weyden hesitates before shooting Wolf Larsen shows that they are not the same—that even with his newfound self-reliance, Van Weyden isn’t willing to shoot an unarmed opponent. Arguably, Van Weyden displays an even higher level of self-reliance, since he has moved beyond his teacher, Wolf Larsen.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Quotes
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Van Weyden asks where the rest of Wolf Larsen’s crew is. It turns out Death Larsen caught up with the Ghost, offered to pay the crew more money, then marooned Wolf alone on the Ghost. Before leaving, Mugridge sabotaged the sails by cutting them.
Again, Death’s name is a sort of play on words; Wolf Larsen has tried—and failed—to outrun Death. His failure suggests that even the strongest people can’t outrun death forever.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Wolf Larsen still claims to be weak from headaches. Van Weyden lets him go, but makes sure to take all of his revolvers and knives. Van Weyden goes back to Maud Brewster and they have breakfast as usual. Right at the end she notices the Ghost and Van Weyden informs her that Wolf Larsen is aboard.
Wolf Larsen’s weakness from headaches, while definitely a physical disease, might also represent how his ego and overconfidence (both associated with the brain) weaken him. It becomes clear that, without his crew, the Wolf Larsen that Van Weyden and Maud Brewster find on the abandoned Ghost is not the towering captain he used to be.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon