About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Humphrey van Weyden was going home. He was a passenger on a ship, the Martinez. Fog had rolled in, so it was not a good day for a sea journey. Humphrey stood on the deck and looked at the fog. He could not see the sky or the sea. Everything, everywhere, was gray. Another passenger walked out onto the deck and stopped to talk to Humphrey. He said, "There's danger out there. There are too many ships about. We can't see them and they can't see us. Listen - do you hear them?" Humphrey listened. He could hear bells that sounded faint and far away. Others sounded close. There were whistles, too. Some were loud, some soft. Behind him, he could hear the Martinez's whistle blowing loudly. "Those bells and whistles are telling us where other ships are," said the man. One far-off whistle became louder. The Martinez slowed. A few minutes passed. The whistle became still louder. The men could hear the other ship pass to one side. The whistle grew faint again. At last, they heard it no more.
Reading Group Guide
1. Wolf Larsen is arguably Jack London's most memorable human character. Discuss your reaction to him.
2. Carl Sandburg contends that Wolf Larsen represents "The System Incarnate, " ruthlessly discarding anything in the way of his own agenda. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Why?
3. Humphrey Van Weyden and Maud Brewster and their civilized, almost spiritual mores stand in brutal contrast to the tyrannical Larsen, providing a dichotomy that persists throughout the novel. In light of this moral conflict London explores, what do you make of the book's closing sections?
4. Many critics have discussed London's socialist leanings. How do you think this influence informs the novel, if at all?
5. What do you think is the metaphorical significance of London's depicting most of the story aboard a ship?
6. Discuss Maud Brewster's role in the book. What is her significance to Van Weyden and to Larsen?
7. Did you think Larsen's morals were inherent or learned? Why?