The Book & the Movie: The Sea-Wolf | Jack London, 1904 / Michael Curtiz, 1941

Sea-Wolf by Jack London, 1st ed., 1904                                                              Jack London  (1876 – 1916)

“Why, if there is anything in supply and demand, life is the cheapest thing in the world. 
There is only so much water, so much earth, so much air; but the life that is demanding 
to be born is limitless. Nature is a spendthrift. Look at the fish and their millions of eggs. 
For that matter, look at you and me. In our loins are the possibilities of millions of lives. 
Could we but find time and opportunity and utilize the last bit and every bit of the unborn 
life that is in us, we could become the fathers of nations and populate continents. Life? 
Bah! It has no value. Of cheap things it is the cheapest. Everywhere it goes begging.
 Nature spills it out with a lavish hand. Where there is room for one life, she sows a
 thousand lives, and it's life eats life till the strongest and most piggish life is left.”

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

“But, – and there it is, – we want to live and move, though we have no reason to, because it 
happens that it is the nature of life to live and move, to want to live and move. If it were not 
for this, life would be dead. It is because of this life that is in you that you dream of your 

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

“Wolf - tis what he is. He's not blackhearted like some men. 'Tis no heart he has at all.”

“At once he became an enigma. One side or the other of his nature was perfectly 
comprehensible; but both sides together were bewildering.”

"The eyes – and it was my destiny to know them well – were large and handsome, wide apart 
as the true artist’s are wide, sheltering under a heavy brow and arched over by thick black 
eyebrows. The eyes themselves were of that baffling protean gray which is never twice
 the same; which runs through many shades and colorings like intershot silk in sunshine; 
which is gray, dark and light, and greenish gray, and sometimes of the clear azure of the 
deep sea. They were eyes that masked the soul with a thousand guises, and that sometimes 
opened, at rare moments, and allowed it to rush up as though it were about to fare forth 
nakedly into the world on some wonderful adventure – eyes that could brood with the
 hopeless sombreness of leaden skies; that could snap and crackle points of fire like those 
which sparkle from a whirling sword; that could grow chill as an arctic landscape, and yet 
again, that could warm and soften and be all a-dance with love-lights, intense and 
masculine, luring and compelling, which at the same time fascinate and dominate 
women till they surrender in a gladness of joy and of relief and sacrifice."

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

“Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself? And it is of course overestimated,
 for it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were
 a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds of rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself?
 Yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. There is plenty more life
 demanding to be born. Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from 
the comb, there would have been no loss to the world. The supply is too large.”

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

“He was not immoral, but merely unmoral.”

“I was jealous; therefore I loved.”

"She was timid and afraid, but she possessed courage. The flesh and the qualms of the flesh she 
was heir to, but the flesh bore heavily only on the flesh. And she was spirit, first and always
 spirit, etherealized essence of life, calm as her calm eyes, and sure of permanence in the 
changing order of the universe."

"And after all, delight is the wage for living. Without delight living is a worthless act. To labor 
at living and be unpaid is worse than to be dead. He who delights the most lives the most, 
and your dreams and unrealities are less disturbing to you and more gratifying than are 
my facts to me."

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

“You have read Darwin," I said. "But you read him misunderstandingly when you conclude that 
the struggle for existence sanctions your wanton destruction of life." He shrugged his shoulders. "
You know you only mean that in relation to human life, for of the flesh and the fowl and the fish 
you destroy as much as I or any other man. And human life is in no wise different, though you 
feel it is and think that you reason why it is. Why should I be parsimonious with this life which
 is cheap and without value? There are more sailors than there are ships on the sea for them, more
 workers than there are factories or machines for them. Why, you who live on the land know that 
you house your poor people in the slums of cities and loose famine 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. Have you ever seen the London dockers
 fighting like wild beasts for a chance to work?”

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

 "The days and nights are all a wonder and a wild delight, and though I have little time from
my dreary work, I steal odd moments to gaze and gaze at the unending glory of what I never
dreamed the world possessed."

“My mistake was in ever opening the books.”

"The earth is full of brutality as the sea is full of motion. And some men 
are made sick by one, and some by the other."

“Surely there can be little in this world more awful than the spectacle of
 a strong man in the moment when he is utterly weak and broken.”

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

"Eternity is eternity, and though you die here and now you will go on living somewhere
 else and hereafter. And it is all very beautiful, this shaking off of the flesh and soaring
of the imprisoned spirit."

"After all, I thought, it is better and finer to love than to be loved, if it makes for something in
life so worth while that no one is not loath to die for it. I forgot my own life in the love of
another life; and yet, such is the paradox, I never wanted so much to live as right then when
I placed the least value upon my own life. I never had so much reason for living, was my
concluding thought…"

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

The Sea Wolf (1941)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers: Jack London (novel), Robert Rossen (screen play)
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino, John Garfield

The first movie to have its world premiere on a ship: the luxury
 liner "America" during a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Ida Lupino                                                                    Ida  Lupino and Edward G. Robinson in The Sea Wolf, 1941

“I’ll have you know I do the swearing on this ship. If I need your assistance I’ll call you.”

Jack London with wife Charmian. They set out on a 2,000-mile journey from San Francisco
to Hawaii on the 55-foot Snark in April 1907


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