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Author Perspective Essay on the Sea-Wolf by Jack London

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Author Perspective Essay on The Sea- Wolf by Jack London

When authors write, their stories can reflect their own feelings, beliefs and life experiences. This is known as the author’s viewpoint or perspective. An author’s perspective can be determined using clues in the text of his/her writing, through the choice of words and ultimately by the way a story unfolds. In the adventure novel, The Sea- Wolf, Jack London’s life is reflected in the story through his dramatic characters, the overall theme, and vivid setting.

Through his two main characters, Wolf Larsen and Humphrey Van Weyden, Jack London’s political perspective is revealed. Captain Wolf Larsen is head of the seal hunting ship, the Ghost. Wolf Larsen, the antagonist, is the brutal skipper. He is the ship’s terrorizing tyrant, and has extraordinary physical strength to fight the men aboard whenever they protested. Wolf rescues Humphrey Van Weyden, the protagonist, from a shipwreck. Humphrey is a meek and frail literary critic. Wolf is disgusted that Humphrey does not work for a living, and forces him to work on the ship saying,” It is a whim of mine to keep you aboard this ship, where my piggishness flourishes. And keep you I will. I may make or break you.” (Ch. 5) Wolf tells Humphrey that the world is a terrible and selfish place. He believes humans are “like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength”. (Ch. 5) All Wolf cares about is his own survival and pleasure, and capitalizes the weak or less fortunate. Humphrey retorts, " 'Then you are an individualist, a materialist, and, logically, a hedonist…You are a man utterly without what the world calls morals.'” (Ch. 8) After seeing the harsh and cruel conditions on the ship, Humphrey is pushed to fend for himself. At the end, Humphrey and the shipmates abandon Wolf and Wolf dies from a brain tumor. In this story, Wolf Larsen symbolizes individualism and Humphrey Van Weyden is a symbol for socialism. Jack London’s perspective on the failure of individualism is evident when Wolf Larsen dies and Van Weyden prevails. This is also based on Jack London’s life experience when he transformed his individualist view to socialist. When he was young, Jack was a very strong and proud “work-beast”, claiming “... my joyous individualism was dominated by the orthodox bourgeois ethics. “ However, after working in many tough jobs he saw hard-working and decent men destroyed by diseases and accidents in the capitalist’s factories. These disabled men were treated poorly as London wrote, “cast adrift by their masters like so many old horses.” Jack feared if he ever became disabled, he would also be an old horse “cast adrift”. He started to believe that people’s lives were better protected under socialism. After turning socialist he said, “I think it is apparent that my rampant individualism was pretty effectively hammered out of me…” Jack London thought individualism and selfishness lead to failure, which is probably why Wolf dies in the story. Instead, Jack shows his hope for socialism when Humphrey prevails through his



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