The Sea-Wolf

by

Jack London

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The Sea-Wolf: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
By the next morning, the storm has ended, and the sea is calmer. The men prepare for hunting. The Ghost is a schooner is built for speed, and Wolf Larsen has a reputation for recklessness. Most sailors claim not to have known about Wolf Larsen or his reputation before they joined the crew—those that did know about him only joined because more respectable schooners wouldn’t accept them.
The passage confirms that Van Weyden is not the only unwilling sailor aboard the Ghost—in fact, it seems that just about every sailor would rather be somewhere else. This demonstrates Wolf Larsen’s strange power to command his crew, even when it’s against their will.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Quotes
Van Weyden meets a crew member named Louis, a talkative Nova Scotia Irish man from Nova Scotia who tells Van Weyden about Wolf Larsen’s reputation. Louis says Wolf Larsen is monstrous, comparing him to the Beast of Revelation. He tells stories about Wolf Larsen’s cruelties.
The character of Louis helps the inexperienced narrator to learn more about life on the Ghost. The Beast of Revelation is a creature from the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament of the Christian Bible—it’s supposed to appear at the end of the world. The Bible describes the Beast as coming out of the sea—which explains why Louis compares Louis to the Beast.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Van Weyden still has trouble getting along with Mugridge, who continues to insist that Van Weyden call him “sir.” Van Weyden’s hands also begin to bother him, blistering from all the work. His knee remains swollen.
None of the other sailors respect Mugridge , and Mugridge takes out his frustration on Van Weyden—the one sailor who has no choice but to listen to him. Mugridge’s abuse of power shows how people who have experienced cruelty can pass down that cruelty to others.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
One day, before supper, Johansen orders a newer recruit named Harrison to fix one of the sails by climbing up onto the halyard. Harrison is afraid to do so, because the task involves going 80 feet up, but Johansen insists, swearing at the boy to motivate him. Wolf Larsen tells Johansen to rein it in—he’s the one who does the swearing on the ship.
A halyard is a rope used to hoist a sail. Fixing a sail by climbing up on the halyard is a very dangerous task. Though Wolf Larsen approves of his men performing feats of bravery, he disapproves of anything that makes it seem like Johansen is taking on some of Larsen’s authority.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
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The wind nearly blows Harrison off the halyard, but he catches himself.  He remains up there for a long time, and Wolf Larsen supervises his work. Van Weyden is nervous for Harrison, but others, like Mugridge, enjoy the spectacle. Wolf Larsen prevents anyone from helping Harrison. At last, Van Weyden has to leave to prepare supper, but he finds that Harrison has descended safely.
Wolf Larsen’s refusal to let anybody help Harrison reflects his strong belief in self-reliance. For others like Mugridge, however, Harrison’s struggles are less of a learning experience and more of a spectacle to watch.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Love, Duty, and Choice Theme Icon
Van Weyden confesses to Wolf Larsen that the treatment of Harrison made him squeamish. Wolf Larsen scoffs at this and questions Van Weyden’s assertion that human life has value. Wolf Larsen talks about how “life eats life till the strongest and most piggish life is left,” and Van Weyden accuses him of misreading Darwin. They continue to argue, and Van Weyden concedes that at least Wolf is consistent.
This is perhaps the first time that Wolf Larsen and Van Weyden talk directly about Charles Darwin and his influence on Larsen’s way of thinking. Larsen’s language about the strongest life eating weaker life seems to reflect ideas Darwin’s concept of “survival of the fittest,” but the well-read Van Weyden challenges Larsen’s attempt to apply Darwin to everyday situations (like Harrison’s struggle on the halyard) with so little nuance.
Themes
Self-Reliance and Maturation Theme Icon
Materialism vs. Idealism Theme Icon
Survival of the Fittest Theme Icon
Quotes