The Sea-Wolf

by

Jack London

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The Sea-Wolf: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
For two days, Van Weyden and Maud Brewster search at sea and on beaches for the missing masts. They find them on the third day and bring them aboard the Ghost. Van Weyden begins having second thoughts about how they will fare at sea compared to on the island, but Maud Brewster encourages him to continue.
The fact that Van Weyden and Maud Brewster search for the masts for three days illustrates their determination to escape the island and survive. Once again, Brewster demonstrates the power of cooperation by motivating Van Weyden to continue.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Maud Brewster talks about how she used to be in poor health, and she was traveling to Japan because doctors recommended a long sea voyage. Van Weyden compliments her on how brave she’s become.
Brewster’s restored health suggests that desperate conditions can help people to find strength they didn’t realize they had.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Van Weyden and Maud Brewster again attempt to repair the masts on the Ghost. This time, they remain on the ship to guard their work against Wolf Larsen. Wolf Larsen can hear them, but he only talks casually with them.
Van Weyden and Brewster demonstrate determination by redoing their work and trying again. As is often the case, Wolf Larsen hides his intentions, building tension and a sense of mystery.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
One night, as Wolf Larsen attempts to sabotage Van Weyden and Maud Brewster’s work again, Van Weyden catches him in the act and confronts him. Wolf Larsen dares Van Weyden to kill him, but Van Weyden says he’ll only do so if Wolf attempts to cut the mast. Wolf backs down and doesn’t attempt to cut the mast.
Wolf Larsen’s motivations remain mysterious. It isn’t clear if he is attempting to trick Van Weyden or if he realizes he is dying and no longer values even his own life.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
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Maud Brewster and Van Weyden discuss what to do with Wolf Larsen. But as it turns out, when they are working the next day, they see that Wolf Larsen is so feeble he can barely walk. Van Weyden wonders if Wolf is faking it.
Wolf Larsen projects such a powerful spirit that even when he can barely walk, Van Weyden is wary of him. Again, Van Weyden’s inability to read Larsen builds tension.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Van Weyden goes to check on Wolf Larsen, but he gets too close, and Wolf grabs him and tries to choke him. Maud Brewster screams and tries in vain to help while Van Weyden begins to lose consciousness. Suddenly, however, Wolf Larsen goes limp and his grip on Van Weyden’s throat loosens.
The tension comes to a climax as Wolf Larsen reveals he still has life in him after all. At the same time, however, Larsen is unable to overcome physical weakness. Finally, Larsen’s attempt to choke Van Weyden demonstrates his tendency to resort to physical violence when he can’t overpower people with words. 
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
As Van Weyden returns to his senses, he realizes that Maud Brewster was holding a seal club, ready to attack Wolf Larsen. Van Weyden explains that Wolf had another attack like the one that initially made him blind. They tie Wolf Larsen up and put him in handcuffs in steerage.
The fact that Maud Brewster is holding a seal club shows that even she has changed and is potentially willing to use violence when necessary. It’s noteworthy that she goes for the seal club, since killing the seals is what forced Van Weyden and Brewster to resort to violence in the first place.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon