Author: Jack London
Dates: 12 January 1876 – 22 November 1916
Title of Book: The Sea-Wolf
After a sleepless night, I arose weak and in agony, to hobble through my second day on the Ghost. Thomas Mugridge routed me out at half-past five, much in the fashion that Bill Sykes must have routed out his dog; but Mr. Mugridge’s brutality to me was paid back in kind and with interest. The unnecessary noise he made (I had lain wide-eyed the whole night) must have awakened one of the hunters; for a heavy shoe whizzed through the semi-darkness, and Mr. Mugridge, with a sharp howl of pain, humbly begged everybody’s pardon. Later on, in the galley, I noticed that his ear was bruised and swollen. It never went entirely back to its normal shape, and was called a “cauliflower ear” by the sailors.
The day was filled with miserable variety. I had taken my dried clothes down from the galley the night before, and the first thing I did was to exchange the cook’s garments for them. I looked for my purse. In addition to some small change (and I have a good memory for such things), it had contained one hundred and eighty- five dollars in gold and paper. The purse I found, but its contents, with the exception of the small silver, had been abstracted. I spoke to the cook about it, when I went on deck to take up my duties in the galley, and though I had looked forward to a surly answer, I had not expected the belligerent harangue that I received.
“Look ‘ere, ‘Ump,” he began, a malicious light in his eyes and a snarl in his throat; “d’ye want yer nose punched? If you think I’m a thief, just keep it to yerself, or you’ll find ‘ow bloody well mistyken you are. Strike me blind if this ayn’t gratitude for yer! ‘Ere you come, a pore mis’rable specimen of ‘uman scum, an’ I tykes yer into my galley an’ treats yer ‘ansom, an’ this is wot I get for it. Nex’ time you can go to ‘ell, say I, an’ I’ve a good mind to give you what-for anyw’y.”
So saying, he put up his fists and started for me. To my shame be it, I cowered away from the blow and ran out the galley door. What else was I to do? Force, nothing but force, obtained on this brute-ship. Moral suasion was a thing unknown. Picture it to yourself: a man of ordinary stature, slender of build, and with weak, undeveloped muscles, who has lived a peaceful, placid life, and is unused to violence of any sort – what could such a man possibly do? There was no more reason that I should stand and face these human beasts than that I should stand and face an infuriated bull.
So I thought it out at the time, feeling the need for vindication and desiring to be at peace with my conscience. But this vindication did not satisfy. Nor, to this day can I permit my manhood to look back upon those events and feel entirely exonerated. The situation was something that really exceeded rational formulas for conduct and demanded more than the cold conclusions of reason. When viewed in the light of formal logic, there is not one thing of which to be ashamed; but nevertheless a shame rises within me at the recollection, and in the pride of my manhood I feel that my manhood has in unaccountable ways been smirched and sullied.
Brief Biography: London was an author, journalist and social activist. His passion for unionization and workers’ rights was powerfully portrayed in several of his novels including the dystopian novel The Iron Heel. Born to a working class family London was self-educated and in 1893 was imprisoned for vagrancy. He died of uremic poisoning for which he was taking morphine and there are still academics who claim he committed suicide.