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In Jack London's novel The Sea Wolf, is there any way that Wolf Larsen could be...

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alahti123 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 9, 2012 at 10:32 AM via web

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In Jack London's novel The Sea Wolf, is there any way that Wolf Larsen could be considered noble?

 

Friedrich Nietzsche said "Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul." I am trying to write an essay about how Wolf Larsen proves this quote to be true. I know how he is egotistical, but how is he noble.

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Friedrich Nietzsche once claimed that “Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul.” Wolf Larsen, the main character in Jack London’s novel The Sea-Wolf, might be considered a noble soul in this particular Nietzschean sense. Larsen’s noble egoism (one might argue) is manifested in some of the following ways:

  • He thinks for himself and makes his own choices. He is not burdened by the opinions or philosophies of others unless he embraces others’ ideas by his own free choice. He can be considered “noble,” then, in the sense that he is free and self-determining. He can be considered noble in the sense that he is intellectually courageous and adventurous because he respects himself.
  • Larsen is a thoughtful man. He can be considered noble in the sense that he has read widely and thought deeply and has cultivated his intellect.  He has done his own thinking.
  • Larsen can be considered noble in the sense that he faces any challenge that comes his way. He is physically as well as mentally courageous. He does not make excuses. He does not whine.
  • Larsen can be considered noble in the sense that he faces facts and doesn’t try to deny them. He is not a sentimentalist.
  • Larsen can be considered noble in the sense that he is willing to challenge accepted pieties. He has the courage of his convictions and is not afraid to adopt and defend unpopular positions. He thinks of himself as a truth-teller and seems willing to follow his logic wherever it may lead him.
  • Larsen can be considered noble in the sense that he does seem to have some concern for the suffering of others, even though he often treats his own crew in ways that will strike many people as abusive.  Thus, at one point he calls attention to the hypocrisy of those who profess humanity but do nothing to combat the mistreatment of the poor:

". . . Why, you who live on land know that you house your poor people in the slums of cities and loose famines and pestilence upon them, and that there still remain more poor people, dying for want of a crust of bread and a bit of meat (which is life destroyed), than you know what to do with."

At another point, Larsen calls attention to another form of alleged hypocrisy when Van Weyden confesses his fear of Cooky:

"That’s the way with you fellows," he cried, half angrily, "sentimentalizing about your immortal souls and afraid to die."

Surely Larsen feels no such fear.

  • All in all, then, Larsen would probably strike Nietzsche as a "noble" man because he is in practically every way a courageous man. He is not weak.

 

 

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