Sea Voyages in The Sea Wolf and Moby Dick

sea wolfMeet Humphrey van Weyden, a promising writer with great intellect, on board the Martinez to head for San Francisco. His essays had just be published and became famous world wide, and understandably, he was proud of himself. That is–until the Martinez collided with another ship in the fog and sank. And that’s when poor Humphrey was ditched into the sea and kept afloat by simply wearing life vests being unable to drink, and there, he drift off into the ocean, slowly losing conscious throughout the cold numbness of the waves until…

There was a ship! It was Mr. Humphrey’s lucky day! And thankfully, the captain of the ship spotted him. Humprehy had been unable to scream due to his complete exhaustion. The order was said, and Humprey was rescued, on board The Ghost. He heard a lot about his savior through the ship crew even before he got the chance to meet the captain and negotiate things to get him dropped off San Francisco for him. Unfortunately, nothing about the so called ‘Captain’ was good news. The entire crew feared him.

And now let’s launch over towards the Pequod, a beautiful ship in which Ishmael would spend the next few years on his whaling trip. There was no fearsome captain there. It was Captain Ahab, slightly off his rocker and mad with revenge for the white whale whom had taken his leg. But overall, he did not really have a bad relationship with his crew. He might have slightly dragged them all towards catching Moby Dick the white whale, but he wasn’t as brutal as Wolf Larsen.

“He was not immoral, but merely unmoral.” – Humprehy about Wolf Larsen.

Wolf Larsen is just a nickname, but it suits him well. He’s a large man with a mean and slightly psychotic edge and he has no fear of using his power against his crew mates. But the longer Humphrey was in wolf’s ship, the quicker he realized that Wolf was an intellect man who was very good at analyzing and learnt lots of subjects by himself. In other words, the brutal captain of the ship had a thing about philosophy and literature.

Bookcover-1Humprehy quickly learnt that he had no choice but to follow The Ghost in her route towards the coasts of Japan to capture seals. During the course of the trip, he absorbed his way around Wolf Larsen, engaging him often with his talks about philosophy, gradually causing himself to rise up upon the ranks as he grew physically stronger. Wolf Larsen questioned the value of life, quoting Charles Darwin in the circle of to kill or being killed. He believed that men should just give in to what they wanted and constantly taunted Humprehy about it. On the other hand, Humprehy did not believe in Larsen’s values and more or less believed that everyone’s soul was immortal.

The Sea Wolf reminded me a lot of Moby Dick, except that it’s no journey to find a white whale. Ishmael was a sailor at the start, who willingly came up the Pequod as a sailor. Humphrey, was not. If asked in the start of the story, he would obviously rather find himself a nice study and curl up while reading a book. But he grew to love the sea and his work in it.

Ishmael was not the main character, although he was the narrator Moby Dick. He wasn’t in the center of the attention; instead, he was one of the average ranking sailors on top of the Pequod. Queequeg, his friend, played a much more important role than him. Sure, Ishmael survived the crazy voyage, and lived to tell the tale, but he wasn’t the powerful character of the story. Humphrey, instead, became the mate (next important person after captain) after Wolf Larsen killed the previous one after an attempted mutiny. Humphrey who had lost the respect of the crew members at the start of the trip by being ranked as a cabin boy was now respectfully called Mr ‘Van Weyden’ instead of ‘Hump’, which Wolf Larsen still reserved for him.

Jack London also added something in his story which was probably a very uncommon thing that would happen in normal sea voyages. He added a woman. Of course, she was simply just a castaway whom Wolf Larsen found and rescued, but it’s a woman on a ship! Voyages like that are normally made out of gangs of man. A woman happening on a ship is sooooo rare. Humphrey mentioned that the entire ship crew was flabbergasted. Her name was Maud Brewster, and she shared Humphrey’s intelligent trait, being a writer herself. And there Humphrey goes–love at first sight.

As I read The Sea Wolf, I was constantly shadowed by the story of Moby Dick, a novel that I’ve read before. When I first read it, I felt like it was going to be a way cheaper version of Moby Dick, but I found out that The Sea Wolf had many things Moby Dick didn’t, as of vise versa. As on further note, Jack London had a very successful life. His most famous books include White Fang and The Call of the Wild. Meanwhile, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was his most famous novel, only gaining attention a bit after his death.

Before I close, which came first, The Sea Wolf or Moby Dick? (Totally easier than the Chicken and the Egg question. Of course, it’s the egg first though. Philosophically, The Egg has been there long before the chicken, due to evolution)

Answer: Moby Dick. It was published on October 18th 1851 while The Sea Wolf was published in 1904. It’s possible that The Sea Wolf was also slightly influenced by Moby Dick.

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