It is a story about an intellectual man named Humphrey van Weyden, who is forced to become tough and self-reliant by exposure to cruelty and brutality.
The story starts with him aboard a San Francisco ferry, called Martinez, which collides with another ship in the fog and sinks.
He is set adrift in the sea, eventually being picked up by Wolf Larsen. Larsen is the captain of the seal-hunting schooner, the Ghost. Brutal and cynical, yet also highly intelligent and intellectual, he rules over his ship and terrorizes the crew with the aid of his exceptionally great physical strength.
Humphrey adequately describes him as an individualist and a materialist. Larsen does not believe in the immortality of the soul, he finds no meaning in his life apart from survival and pleasure, and has come to despise all human life and deny its value.
Being interested in someone capable of intellectual disputes, he somewhat takes care of Humphrey, whom he calls 'Hump', while forcing him to become a cabin boy, do menial work, and learn to fight to protect himself from a brutal crew.
When a woman castaway is picked up along the way, Humphrey falls in love. The two are cast off on a desert island and are forced to survive intolerable conditions.
On the island, which is heavily populated with seals, they hunt, build shelter and a fire, and survive for several days.
Jack London is a masterful storyteller. London spent some time living in Germany while writing The Sea Wolf.
Its first printing of forty thousand copies were immediately sold out before publication on the strength of London's previous The Call of the Wild.
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