Literary Precedents for The Sea-Wolf

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In the character of Wolf Larsen, London bridges the gap between the Byronic hero and the modern anti-hero, and critics have drawn parallels with Shakespeare, Milton, Nietzsche and others. Yet the most important American literary precedent is Melville's Moby Dick (1851). Wolf Larsen is literary naturalism's Ahab. Like Melville's captain, Larsen is an intelligent man who has questioned too deeply. Refusing to comfort himself with beliefs he cannot get his hands on, Larsen, like Ahab, courageously confronts the natural and human worlds alone. However, unlike Ahab, whose life is directed by his mad quest to seek revenge on the white whale, Larsen has no purpose toward which to direct his energy. His increasingly severe headaches represent the way in which he is consumed by his own consciousness.

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