Thursday, November 3, 2011

McTeague vs. The Sea Wolf

McTeague is a story about a stupid, dumb, non certified dentist, who ends up killing his wife and stealing her money only to end up alone and dying in Death Valley. The Sea Wolf, written by Jack London, is a story about a young, passive man by the name of Humphrey van Weyden who transforms into a hardened survivalist. During the novel he is saved by a ship, The Ghost, owned by Wolf Larsen, who is abusive and repulsive in his mannerisms. Larsen's behavior is so disruptive and cruel that the crew members decide to mutiny against him. They first try to push him overboard, but he climbs back up and goes after them, leading to another uprising. In retribution, Larsen tortures the crew and continually threatens to kill Leech and Johnson. As the events unfold, the heroine of the novel is saved much like Weyden and is coveted by both Larsen and Weyden. Weyden fears for her safety, so they flee to an island. Larsen, due to conflicts with his brother, is the only one to survive his boat crash. Weyden and Miss Brewster find him and remove the fire arms from his reach, but cannot bring themselves to kill him. They instead begin to rebuild the boat in hopes of escape. Larsen thwarts their attempts and tries to completely sabotage their plans because he has decided to die on the island. Despite the setbacks, all three set sail and Larsen dies on board his ship and is given a burial at sea.

Larsen's actions and destructiveness remind me of Marcus from McTeague. Both men want one woman, not so much for the love they feel for her, but for the way they view her. Larsen is unable to gain Miss Brewster's affections because of his own brutish personality and the fact that Weyden beat him to it, much like McTeague does. As the story progresses, it becomes less about the woman and more about the wants and drives of selfishness. Larsen does not want the three of them to leave the island, so they won't much the same with Marcus wanting the money he believed was due him and not letting McTeague live happily. Marcus and Larsen both ruin try to ruin the plans and dreams of the supposed heroes and in the end both die. Marcus unlike Larsen is successful in his revenge, leaving McTeague with his dead corpse attached by the cuffs and no way to escape, but to slowly waste away. This connected theme could be connected back to the idea of naturalism that we as people are merely domesticated beasts that when given the right push, whether it is greed or revenge, will revert back to our baser selves.


  1. That's an interesting parallel, Kristen.

  2. I agree with your recognizing the drives and motivations not being about the girl in either story, but ending up for everyone in seemingly both stories, being selfishness, and survival.

    Then ending is so depressing, but there could really have been no happy ending for anyone.

  3. The interesting thing about the way Marcus and McTeague view Trina is that as the plot thickens, Trina doesn't seem to even matter, but her $5,000 does. There is a really ugly side to humanity here, and I was at first shocked to see all of the worst stereotypes of the covetous Jew represented in Zerkow, when finally, these same traits are eventually projected upon most of the characters.