The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Call of the Wild is a popular work of American author Jack London. The book tells us about the hardship of a dog named Buck. His difficult adventures started when he was stolen from the house of his owners. He was taken to a severely cold and snowy North and sold to local miners, engaged in the search for gold. It was a period of common gold rush. In his The Call of the Wild, Jack London shows how deep he feels the true nature of the Northern countries and the nature of animals that have to live there.
Buck, who was the most praised animal in the house of his owners, faces the difficulties of the harsh life. Over some time, the good-natured half Saint Bernard and half Scottish shepherd dog turns into a ruthless, savage beast, incredibly enduring and strong. One day, suddenly, Buck hears the call, the call of the wild.
The way Buck changes from a lazy good-natured dog to a “red-eyed devil” is a dramatic story which fell into my heart. As an epigraph of the book goes, “Old longings nomadic leap / Chafing at custom’s chain / Again from its brumal sleep / Wakens the ferine strain” (London).
Chapter 1: Into the Primitive
Buck is an ordinary dog. He lives in California, enjoys warm sunny weather, and his owner loves him very much.
Buck lives his life having no idea what fate has prepared for him. Buck is a dog who trustes people, “he had learned to trust in men he knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom that outreached his own” (London), Manuel, who is a worker at the rancho where Buck’s owners live, steals the dog and sells him. Buck’s life changes forever when Manuel realizes that he can supplement his income with a sizable amount by selling the dog. This act is the rising action of the story. The dog is torn out of his previous life, thrown to a cage and beaten with the club. This makes good old Buck fulfilled with rage and pure anger. His eyes become bloody-red.
His new owner, a fat man in red sweater, teaches Buck to obey him using “lessons” of continuous beating the dog with the club. Buck is beaten, but he is not broken. He understands that a man with the club is stronger. He is confused with the truth of the life.
The “red sweater” sells Buck to Canadian French men Perrault and Francois for 300 dollars and the dog’s adventures start. He is taken with the other dogs to the unknown place. They travel by the ship to a place where Buck sees the snow for the first time in his life.
The first chapter of the book shows us how the dog met his first difficulties. The first thing Buck felt was indignation because of treachery of the man he knew, but it was just the beginning. The big and good-natured dog faced a cruel “law of the club” that a man in a red sweater applied. Buck obeyed the man; he even ate from his hands, but he was filled with rage. Though Buck was not going to ever see the “red sweater” again, the man stuck in the dog’s mind. Francois and Perrault, the new owners of Buck, made the first impression of fair men. They did not beat the dogs with the clubs; they fed every dog equally during their trip on the “Narwhal”. Still, Buck did not know what was going to happen next.
Chapter 2: The Law of Club and Fang
Buck’s first days in cold and severe North begin. Buck joins a dog team, which is led by Spitz, a husky. Buck has to work hard and to learn fast from the other dogs, because a trial work begins immediately.
Buck’s friend Curly is killed by the camp huskies for being friendly towards another dog. This is when Buck faces “the law of club and fang”, which rules his new life. Buck achieves mastery and endurance and becomes wild.
The fact that he is forced to haul a sled hurts his ambition, but he does not even think to rebel. He overcomes himself and tries to work well, although it all is new and strange to him. Francois is stern, demanding an immediate obedience.
Buck makes success in his new life. He learnes from the other dogs how to survive in such difficult conditions. He adapts to the hardships of Yukon life, sharpens his senses of sight and smell and bites the ice from his paws to protect his limbs from damage. He starts to adopt the characteristics of his ancestors.
During dog’s trials, Buck faces new difficulties. He is exhausted since he does not have enough food and has to run from dawn till night. He evolves (or rather becomes wild) very quickly. His muscles become as strong as iron and he now is insensitive to any ordinary pain. He receives good trainings, both external and internal. He learnes to eat all food he is given, even the most nasty and indigestible.
Perrault and Francois do not torture the dogs, but they demand to obey them. They also help the dogs to pull the sledge and to make the way through thick snow. After two trips between towns, the dogs become exhausted and overworked. Francois and Perrault feel very proud of their team after they have set a record for their run. French men teach dogs that they are a big team together. They are a team and their success depends on every member, no matter who is that, a human or a dog.
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Chapter 3: The Dominant Primordial Beast
Spitz, feeling that Buck is a strong competitor for the leading place, starts first fights, doing things like stealing his warm sleeping spots. The fight is interrupted by a group of raving mad, starving huskies. All dogs are injured in the fight.
Since they have to move on, the dogs come on a thin ice. At some point, the ice breaks and the dogs fall through it. Buck, being the strongest dog in the team, does his best to save the dogs and his efforts do not let the team die.
Spitz, seeing that Buck is tired after long trial, thinks that this is his best opportunity to beat Buck. Francois sees Spitz’s intention and calms him with his whip. The open war between the two dogs starts. There should be only one winner. In the end, the primordial beast within Buck wins. Spitz is killed.
The two French men, Francois and Perrault, respect the animals for doing such a hard work, taking care of them. In their turn, the dogs respect their owners, obeying them. Still, they are not friends, they are a team.
Chapter 4: Who Has Won to Mastership
Francois and Perrault found that Buck had killed Spitz in the battle that left signs on Buck’s body. It was good news for Francois. He understood that there would be no more trouble with the dogs working as a team. Old husky Sol-leks became a new leading dog of the sled. That choice made Buck angry and he made French men make him the leader.
Buck and the team of dogs are handed to new masters, François and Perrault leave them. Things made Buck wonder how men seemed to come in and out of his life.
One day, during the trial, Dave, one of the sled dogs, started to constantly whine because of some pain. Even though men did not find any broken bones or visible injuries, they decided to remove Dave from the sled. Soon Buck heard a crack of the revolver, after which he never saw Dave again.
The fourth chapter is a transitional one, which divides Buck’s life into two parts: before and now. Now he does not see himself a big lazy dog sitting on the grass in California, he sees himself near a primitive wild man. Buck shows himself as a strong and unbeatable leader. Other dogs see that.
Cooperation between Buck and French men ended. Francois and Perrault accomplished their task. They taught their dogs to work in a team. Now dogs meet the new owners.
Chapter 5: The Toil of Trace and Trail
The dogs finally finish their exhaustive journey. Dogs meet their new owners – Hal, Charles, and Mercedes. These people have too much luggage. All the things they put into the sled make it too heavy and the dogs cannot pull the load. Finally, people decide to throw out some things. Unfortunately, Mercedes keeps her hairdryer and nail polish and throws out food and water instead.
They get going, but soon enough everyone starts to starve. Billee, one of the dogs, has no strength any more and falls. Hal has no choice and kills him.
The spring comes and makes the ice thinner. Buck remembers the last run on the thin ice and he refuses to lead the team onto the frozen water. Hal beats Buck, but it does not help.
John Thornton sees what is happening and threatens Hal to kill him if he does not stop beating Buck. He releases Buck from the sled. The rest of the team continues their way on the ice. Buck and John Thornton see the sled fall into the river. Buck licks Thornton’s hand in gratitude.
This chapter shows us that a strong dog Buck can be submitted not by everyone. Hal makes a mistake beating him. Buck does not have respect for his new owner from the very beginning. They try to bring too much of “civilization” to the place where primitive laws rule.
Buck’s primitive instincts help him to understand that it is too dangerous to go onto the ice. Newcomers do not understand it. Maybe it was a fate’s present for the “red-eyed devil” that John saves him. Buck feel something new, something unknown.
We meet two distinct types of people who have been drawn to the North by the gold rush. People of one type are very competent and ambitious, but fair in their treatment of the work of their animals and fond of them, while people of the other type fall apart physically, emotionally and morally in the face of Arctic conditions.
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Chapter 6: For the Love of a Man
As it was said earlier, Buck has sympathy for Thornton more than he ever had. Buck licks John, bites him very gently. He never loses sight of his new owner. By this time, Buck has become a wild dog. He never misses his life in California. He now wants to live in the woods, to hunt and to howl under the starred sky. Thornton gets into the fight that started in the bar and Buck protects his owner.
Buck saves John Thornton from drowning. The scene of Buck’s heroism and dedication is worth reading for several times. Some men bet Thornton that Buck could not pull a thousand-pound load. John Thornton bets money he does not even have at the moment. Buck makes everything possible for his beloved owner. He makes the load move. John Thornton wins a load of money. Fulfilled with emotions, he cries and hugs his dog.
Now, when people see Buck’s power, everyone wants to own this big dog. People ask John to sell Buck, but he refuses.
This chapter shows us another Buck. A big scarred dog is truly and sincerely devoted to John Thornton. He loves his owner very much. This chapter pictures the cooperation of the best friends, friends that can overcome any problem, even death. None of them could even imagine their life without each other. Together, hand by paw, they could go to the end of the earth.
Chapter 7: The Sounding of a Call
One day, Buck wanders into the woods near the camp where he and John live and meets a wolf. He establishes a friendship with the wolf and begins to feel at home. Even though Buck likes this setting, his loyalty and love to John makes him turn back to the camp.
He keeps coming into the woods and begins to stay away for longer periods of time. Once, after he has been absent for several days, he feels that something is wrong. Buck reaches the camp and finds Thornton’s dogs lying dead on the ground from arrow wounds. He sees several Indians and attacks one of them. Buck realizes that he is too late. His friend Thornton is dead. His beloved John is dead.
Buck realizes that there is nothing holding him back now. The dog decides to leave civilization behind. He again wanders into the woods and feels free to answer his inner call, the call of the wild.
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The chapter demonstrates us the resolution of Buck’s conflict between the call of the wild and his love for John Thornton. Buck chooses the call of the wild and joins his wolf brother. He soon becomes the pack leader, but returns each summer to visit John Thornton’s camp.
Buck’s inner call overcomes his true and sincere love for John. We cannot insist that Buck does not love John any more. He does, but the call is overwhelming.
Human factor in Buck’s life makes the dog feel his real nature, the nature of his ancestors. Buck begins to hear the call from the moment he met the man in red sweater, who taught Buck the “law of the club”. Thanks to the “red sweater”, Buck learns the cruelty of the life.
The two French men, Francois and Perrault taught Buck to work in a team, to be a mechanism, where each member is a cogwheel that depends on others.
John Thornton taught this beast a true love, which Buck never met before. They needed nobody else.
Buck met different people that changed his life. He would never feel so many emotions living in California. He would never feel the call inside. People and difficulties on his way changed him, so that he could finally find his place, his real nature and fate.
The “red-eyed devil”, which could not believe Manuel was able to betray, now would thank him.