The Sea Wolf

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The Sea Wolf (1904) by Jack London is an adventure novel narrated by literary critic Humphrey van Weyden. After an ocean collision, van Weydon finds himself aboard the sealing schooner, Ghost, and at the mercy of her amoral captain Wolf Larsen.


  • These women, capable of the most sublime emotions, of the tenderest sympathies, were openmouthed and screaming. They wanted to live, they were helpless, likes rats in a trap, and they screamed.
    • Chapter One
  • "The cap'n is Wolf Larsen, or so men call him. I never heard his other name. But you better speak soft with him. He is mad this morning. The mate-" But he did not finish. The cook had glided in.
    • Chapter Two
  • My first thought was that a man who had come through a collision and rubbed shoulders with death merited more attention than I received.
    • Chapter Two
  • "I only remember one part of the service," he said, "and that is 'And the body shall be cast into the sea'. So cast it in."
    • Chapter Three
  • Against the wall, near the head of the bunk, was a rack filled with books. I glanced over them, noting with astonishment such names as Shakespeare, Tennyson, Poe, and De Quincey. There were scientific works too, among which were represented men such as Tyndall, Proctor, and Darwin.
    • Van Weydon discovers Wolf Larsen's astonishing array of reading matter. Chapter Five
  • It was patent that this terrible man was no ignorant clod, such as one would inevitably suppose him to be from his exhibitions of brutality. At once he became an enigma.
    • Chapter Five
  • Hist, now, between you an' meself and the stanchion there, this Wolf Larsen is a regular devil, an' the Ghost'll be a hell ship like she's always been since he had hold iv her.
    • Chapter Six
  • Wolf - tis what he is. He's not blackhearted like some men. 'Tis no heart he has at all. Wolf. just Wolf, tis what he is. D'ye wonder he's well named?
    • Chapter Six
  • Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself? And it is of course overestimated, for it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds of rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself? Yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. There is plenty more life demanding to be born. Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from the comb, there would have been no loss to the world. The supply is too large.
    • Wolf Larsen, Chapter Six
  • He does not lose anything, for with the loss of himself he loses the knowledge of loss.
    • Wolf Larsen, Chapter Six
  • "My vision is clear and far. I could almost believe in God. But" - and his voice changed and the light went out of his face - "what is this condition in which I find myself? This joy of living? This exultation of life? This inspiration, I may well call it? It comes when there is nothing wrong with one's digestion, when the stomach is in trim and and his appetite has an edge, and all goes well."
    • Chapter Seven
  • Concerning his own rages, I am convinced that they are not real, that they are sometimes experiments, but that in the main they are the habits of a pose or attitude he has seen fit to take toward his fellowman.
    • Chapter Eight
  • The loneliness of the man is slowly being borne in upon me. There is not a man aboard but hates or fears him, nor is there a man whom he does not despise.
    • Chapter Ten
  • He was not immoral, but merely unmoral.
    • Chapter Ten
  • And through it all, calm and impassive, leaning on his elbow and gazing down, Wolf Larsen seemed lost in a great curiosity. This wild stirring of yeasty life, this terrific revolt and defiance of matter that moved, perplexed and interested him.
    • Chapter Twelve
  • "Utility," he interrupted. "This body was made for use. These muscles were made to grip, and tear, and destroy living things that get between me and life. But have you thought of the other living things? They too have muscles of one kind and another, made to grip, and tear, and destroy; and when they come between me and life, I outgrip them, outtear them, outdestroy them. Purpose does not explain it. Utility does."
    • Wolf Larsen, Chapter Fifteen
  • Feet with which to clutch the ground, legs to stand on and help withstand, while with arms and hands, teeth and nails, I struggle to kill and not be killed.
    • Chapter Fifteen
  • And I give you warning, Wolf Larsen, that I may forget love of my own life in the desire to kill you if you go too far in maltreating those poor wretches.
    • Chapter Nineteen
  • I was jealous; therefore I loved.'
    • Chapter Twenty-Three
  • He who steals my purse steals my right to live," was the reply, "old saws to the contrary. For he steals my bread and meat and bed, and in doing so imperils my life.
    • Wolf Larsen, Chapter Twenty-Four
  • "You will observe there," I said, " a slight trembling. It is because I am afraid, the flesh is afraid; and I am afraid in my mind because I do not wish to die. But my spirit masters the trembling flesh and the qualms of the mind. I am more than brave. I am courageous. Your flesh is not afraid. You are not afraid. On the one hand, it costs you nothing to encounter danger; on the other hand, it even gives you delight. You enjoy it. You may be unafraid, Mr. Larsen, but you must grant that the bravery is mine."
    • Chapter Twenty-Five
  • "And you know that I would kill an unarmed man as readily as I would smoke a cigar," he went on. "You know for what I am - my worth in the world by your standard. You have called me snake, tiger, shark, monster, and Caliban. And yet you, you little rag puppet, you little echoing mechanism, you are unable to kill me as you would a snake or a shark because I have hands, feet, and a body shaped somewhat like yours."
    • Chapter Thirty-Two
  • "So my smile is crooked?" he queried a short while after. "Well, consider henceforth that I smile internally, with my soul, if you please, my soul. Consider that I am smiling now."
    • Chapter Thirty-Seven
  • "Pray do not interrupt me," he wrote. "I am smiling."
    • Chapter Thirty-Seven
  • "I remember only one part of the service," I said, "and that is, 'And the body shall be cast into the sea'."
    • Chapter Thirty-Nine

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