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Chapter Five - Part Four

With the dogs on their last legs, Mercedes and Charles in tears, and Hal swearing, the team arrives at John Thornton's camp. Charles wearily takes a seat, while Hal talks to the man. As John whittles, he takes in Hal's story, and offers advice when asked for it. He is terse, but accurate in his replies - he knows the breed, he knows the arctic, and he knows that his advice will not be followed. He tells them not to chance the thinning ice, but Hal self-righteously retorts that they had been told they would not make it this far, and they have. Again, Thornton advises them not to take their chances on the ice, warning of certain death. Hal makes a smart remark and takes his lash to the animals, urging them on to Dawson. Thornton goes back to his whittling, not at all surprised that the fool is not following his advice.
Despite Hal's lashing, however, the dogs fail to move. They are long past the point where whipping is anything more to them than dull, distant pain. Hal, nonetheless, continues inflicting lashes on his team. Sol-leks is the first to concede, slowly pulling himself to his feet. Teek and Joe follow, whimpering in pain. Pike attempts to rise, but falls over, and only manages to pull himself up on his third attempt. Buck makes no attempt at all. He lies still as Hal repeatedly lashes him, and he makes not a noise as the whip meets its target again and again. Thorton looks up, but says nothing. A tear comes to his eye, and he gets up and paces. Hal becomes even more infuriated by Buck's insolence, astonished that the animal would disregard him like this. It is the first time Buck has not obeyed his master. Hal gives up on the whip and moves to the club. Buck remains quiet and still under these much harder blows, as he has made up his mind not to move. All day long, he has felt an odd sense of impending doom, a feeling that he has been unable to shake. The feel of the thinning, rotting ice beneath his feet has left an impression of disaster, and he knows that danger is lurking around every corner. He will not move. He becomes more removed from the already dull, distant pain. Death is close at hand, and Buck begins to feel oddly numb. He still hears the club hit his body, but he does not feel it. In fact, it does not feel like his body at all; he has the sensation of moving away from the entire situation - from his masters, from his team, from his very body. Everything seems so far away.
Suddenly, Buck is jolted back into reality when he hears an animal-like cry from John Thornton, and sees the man jump on Hal. Mercedes cries out as Hal falls backward, but Charles does nothing. Rage pulsing through his body, Thornton warns, "If you strike that dog again, I'll kill you." Hal, wiping blood from his mouth, retorts that he will do with his dog what he pleases. He is going to Dawson, and Thornton will have no say in the matter. Thornton, however, will not move out of the way, so Hal draws his hunting knife. Thornton manages to get the knife out of Hal's hands, and uses it to cut the lines attaching Buck to the sled. Hal can do nothing; his arms are full with his hysterical sister, and Buck, half-dead, is unable to move, let alone pull the sled. A few minutes later, Hal leads the team, minus Buck back along the trail, and Buck watches them as they leave. The remaining four dogs are limping pitifully, while Mercedes rides on the sled, and the men struggle behind. Meanwhile, Thornton lovingly examines Buck for broken bones, but finds nothing more than scars, bruises, and the heartbreakingly skeletonal body of a malnourished, starving animal.
Buck and his new master watch the sled as it moves along, now a quarter of a mile away. The silence is broken by Mercedes' scream, and, suddenly, the back end of the sled falls backwards. Hal turns to make a run for it, but he is too late. The four remaining dogs, two men, and woman are swallowed up by a gaping hole. The ice had given way, taking the entire team with it. Buck and John Thornton exchange a look. "You poor devil," remarks the man, and Buck licks his hand.

Browse all Studyworld Studynotes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter One - Part One
Chapter One - Part Two
Chapter Two - Part One
Chapter Two - Part Two
Chapter Three - Part One
Chapter Three - Part Two
Chapter Four - Part One
Chapter Four - Part Two
Chapter Five - Part One
Chapter Five - Part Two
Chapter Five - Part Three
Chapter Five - Part Four
Chapter Six - Part One
Chapter Six - Part Two
Chapter Six - Part Three
Chapter Six - Part Four
Chapter Seven - Part One
Chapter Seven - Part Two
Chapter Seven - Part Three
Chapter Seven - Part Four



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