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Points to Ponder

What is the 'Call of the Wild' for Buck?

At the beginning of the novel, Buck is a pampered housedog, an animal unfamiliar with the ways of the wild. Upon arrival in the Yukon, however, he learns to accept the law of club and fang, and transitions into becoming the self appointed leader of the dogs. By the end of the work, he is no longer the dog that spent lazy at Judge Miller's estate, or even the animal that proudly led his team. He is a wild animal, a beast, a primitive version of himself. What, however, instigates this change, pulls him in this direction? It is the call of the wild, the call of his ancestors and his own unconscious desire, to return to the life of the ancient, uncivilized beast. Throughout the novel, as Buck gradually sees the reality of human nature, he develops a longing for the life of his ancestors, one of simplicity and running wild. As he gradually explores both the environment around him and the one he longs to dwell in, he realizes that his thirst for blood and freedom is too compelling. The 'Call of the Wild,' therefore, is Buck's own call to move from a reliance on man for happiness to the will to allow his animal instinct to take over and run free.

Is the book simply about Buck, and the life of a sled dog?

Jack London's The Call of the Wild is told from the perspective of Buck, and focuses on his transformation as a character. It is also a historical novel about living, struggling, and overcoming obstacles for both man and dog in the frigid North during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. It is a graphic tale told without sentimentality, yet it manages to fluidly depict the relationship between man and beast in its best and worst incarnations. Buck, at first, learns that men, as well as dogs, respect only the supremacy of brute force and cunning, and that justice is handed out by whoever has the most power. From this idea, Buck learns ambition, as he fights his way to become the leader of the team. His development continues until he reaches the absolute extent of his power that man will allow, and he must give into the wild "when on the still cold nights he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolf-like, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries, and through him." Moreover, many have argued that Buck's transformation extends beyond the animal world to contemplate man's place in the world. While London admitted that he did not write with such intention, he later acquiesced to the idea, and acknowledged that his work could be viewed as a human allegory.

After being stolen, Buck longs for Judge Miller's estate and all that the estate represents. How and why does this perspective drastically change later in the work?

When we are first introduced to Buck, he lives a content life on the estate of Judge Miller. Allowed to spend the day relaxing in the sun, or on brief hunting jaunts through the woods, Buck is happy with his life and affectionate toward his master. When he first reaches the Klondike, Buck misses this life immensely. He soon realizes, however, that the home that the Judge gave him was neither natural, nor a loving and respectful environment. This realization is highlighted when Buck encounters John Thornton and feels the magnitude of which one can be loved. It is an entirely different love than that which he shared with the Judge. Instead of subservience, the relationship is based on respect and reliance. As Buck feels the call of the wild, he finds an even more natural environment, one in which and the gap between the wild and the estate only increases. In his inevitable transformation to wild beast, Buck realizes the life that he was meant for, a life wholly different from the lazy days in the Santa Clara Valley.

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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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