After the men and the team of dogs return to Skaguay, they expect
a long deserved rest. Instead, the men are ordered to deliver mail immediately
and the dogs are replaced with a fresh team. Buck finds himself now serving
new owners, Hal, Hal's sister, Charles, and Charles' wife, Mercedes. He soon
finds out that these people are inexperienced in the Yukon and don't understand
that the team needs rest before starting another trip.
After the sled is loaded, they begin their journey. Since the
load has been improperly proportioned on the sled, it turns over when they
hit uneven ground. Instead of reducing the load, the men add more dogs to
the team, but they do not buy more food. Soon the supply runs out and the
dogs are too hungry to pull the sled. The men have little understanding of
the situation and start to beat them thinking that the animals are being stubborn.
The dogs begin to die and only five of them are left when they
reach the campsite of John Thornton. Spring has arrived and the Arctic snow
is beginning to melt. John who is an experienced gold hunter, advises them
not to continue their journey, but Hal and Charles consider him to be an old
fool and don't want to heed his advice.
Buck seems to sense that it isn't safe to travel and refuses
to move. Hal begins to whip him but Buck still does not move. After several
hard beatings that are to no avail, Thornton steps in and stands over Buck.
Hal is ready to strike Thornton for interfering but he is no match for Thornton
and decides to leave without Buck.
While Thornton examines Buck to make sure that he doesn't have
any broken bones, they hear a scream and see the sled, the dogs, and the people
disappear into the water where the ice has given way.
Buck has reached a turning point in his career as a sled dog. As he forces
himself to lead the team, his spirit and body suffer repeated blows.
To emphasize the wretched condition of Buck and the other dogs, Jack London
uses the following techniques; describes numerous specific details, repeats
key words such as "dead tired," and expresses the same idea in two
or three different phrases, one right after the other.
The reader has met two distinct types of people who have been drawn to the
North by the gold. One type is competent, businesslike, and ambitious, but
fair in its treatment of the work animals and seems, in fact, to grow fond
of these animals. The other type falls apart physically, emotionally, and
morally in the face of Arctic conditions.