The Sea-Wolf

by

Jack London

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The Sea-Wolf: Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Van Weyden and Maud Brewster have finally gotten the Ghost ready to leave Endeavour Island. They bid the island farewell and head off with a heavy wind. Because Van Weyden is the only one strong enough to handle the wheel at such strong winds, he pulls a 36-hour shift at the wheel.
The strong wind poses a final challenge to Van Weyden and Brewster, forcing Van Weyden to perform one last feat of extreme physical endurance.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Van Weyden and Maud Brewster continue to experience strong winds, and the conditions push the limits of Van Weyden’s physical endurance. One morning, Van Weyden wakes and finds that Maud isn’t making breakfast as usual. He searches and finds her near Wolf Larsen, who apparently died during the storm. Maud suggests that Wolf is still alive because now—in death—his spirit is free.
It is appropriate that Wolf Larsen, whose defining feature is his stormy and unpredictable disposition, dies during a storm. It’s also apt that he dies alone—he spent so much of his life (psychologically) alone, even when he was surrounded by a crew of other sailors.
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 storm breaks, and Van Weyden and Maud Brewster have a funeral at sea for Wolf Larsen. Afterward, they throw his body into the ocean.
Wolf Larsen’s burial at sea recalls the funeral for the deceased mate that happened at the very beginning of Van Weyden’s ocean journey, suggesting that a cycle has been completed.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Idealism Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
After the funeral, Van Weyden and Maud Brewster see a ship from the United States, and Van Weyden raises a distress flag. Van Weyden calls Maud his “one small woman” again and asks to kiss her before the rescue boat comes.
The book’s happy ending suggests that fate has rewarded Van Weyden and Maud Brewster’s perseverance and ingenuity. The ending celebrates growth and self-reliance without necessarily endorsing Wolf Larsen’s cruel version of self-reliance.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Quotes
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