The Sea-Wolf

by

Jack London

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The Sea-Wolf: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Wolf Larsen tasks Mugridge (the cook, whom the crew calls “the doctor,” the hunters call “Tommy,” and Wolf Larsen calls “Cooky”) with teaching Van Weyden how to be a cabin boy. Mugridge is a cruel boss who takes advantage of his new power.
Though Mugridge is a low-ranking sailor on the ship, he uses what power he does have to behave cruelly. Mugridge’s power-hungry demeanor shows how cruelty and abuse can exist as self-perpetuating cycles.  
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Quotes
One day during stormy conditions, a wave knocks over Van Weyden (whom Wolf Larsen has given the nickname “Hump”), injuring his knee. Nobody treats the knee wound, and it continues to bother Van Weyden as he goes about his tasks, which include serving Wolf Larsen and the hunters their food.
Van Weyden’s injury reflects his inexperience at sea. The fact that Wolf Larsen at first does nothing to help Van Weyden with his wound suggest that Wolf Larsen values self-reliance over compassion.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Van Weyden reflects on how strange it is that he’s gone from his intellectual background to his current situation as cabin boy on a seal-hunting schooner. He considers how his mother and sisters will presume him dead. He tries to get to sleep in his new lodging in the hunters’ steerage but finds he can’t.
Van Weyden begins to accept his current situation and new identity, even though he hasn’t gotten used to them yet. The fact that he will be presumed dead in the shipwreck symbolizes how his old, privileged self has died—now, he'll have to become a new, more self-reliant version of himself if he wants to survive.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon