‘The Call of the Wild’ by Jack London – Review
The title of the book is ‘The Call of the Wild’ and was written by Jack London in 1903. He was the son of an Irish-American astrologer and his mother was Flora Wellman, the odd one out of a well to do family. They lived a life of poverty in Pennsylvania. Jack read a lot and at the age of fifteen left home and travelled around North America as a tramp. On charges of vagrancy, he spent 30 days in prison. After educating himself he managed to gain entry to a university, before being caught up in the Klondike River Gold Rush in North Canada, 1896.
On his return he began to write, but he drank heavily and eventually took his own life. The Call of the Wild is a moving story of how a St. Bernard, Scotch Shepherd cross breed dog called Buck escapes captivity to become the proud leader of a wolf pack. Buck was born a privileged, dignified dog with a loving family but was taken from his warm Southern Californian home to be shipped to the cold recesses of Alaska during the 1890’s Gold Rush. After being mistreated by many owners he soon learns that the only rule in this harsh environment is ‘the law of club and fang’ which very much differed from the rules of a civilized society.
After he experiences a loss of one of his fellow dogs, he soon realizes that he is not just fighting to prove himself but fighting for survival. The Call of the Wild uses anthropomorphism which shows how much animals can act and think exactly the same as humans. The sled team Buck is part of all take on human roles, such as the leader, the quiet timid one, the one who is desperate to fit in and the one desperate to prove himself in the cold, icy wastelands of Alaska. Anthropomorphism helps us to compare ourselves to animals and to perhaps learn more about our emotions and actions and the effects they can have on a society.
The chapter I will be examining is called ‘The Law of Club and Fang’ and is when Buck starts to learn of what he must do in order to survive in the freezing environment he has been sent to. He experiences his first loss when one of his fellow sled dogs is brutally murdered by the rest of the dog team. This probably symbolizes the remorselessness of some humans who kill just because someone is a bit different from themselves. He learns many valuable lessons which greatly help him to overcome all the obstacles that are thrown at him throughout his whole experience.
He learns to steal and not get caught and all his senses become heightened so he can adapt to his surrounding environment. Bucks regression to the wild, what he learns from the other dogs and from his own mistakes is what this chapter really concentrates on. For example he learns to stay away from Sol-Leks’s (another sled dog) blind side which he finds is not a good idea unless he wants to have his shoulder, ‘Slashed to the bone for three inches up and down. ” He also makes an enemy in Spitz who he discovers has no morals at all when it comes to surviving.
All the animals in the story not only take on human roles but show human emotions, for example on Buck’s first day as a sled dog he finds that, ‘Every hour was filled with shock and surprise’ and ‘ there was nothing to do but loaf and be bored. ‘ Shock and surprise, as we have the ability to feel these, are definitely human emotions and as Buck is learning to become a sled dog, ‘boredom’ would be a most fitting and appropriate attribute to school children. The language in the chapter uses a wide variety of adjectives and long descriptive sentences to help set the scene.
They can also describe the brutality and savagery of the dogs and how they act in certain situations. Anthropomorphism is also used in the language of the chapter to help get the idea across that animals can react the same way as people, and fight just as bad. For example, London gives the animals human emotions like, ‘screaming with agony’ and ‘cursing horribly’ which is the dog’s reactions after a terrible fight between Curly and Spitz. Curly is a female dog who walked up to Spitz ‘the size of a full grown wolf’ who then attacked her ruthlessly and unforgiving.
Her face ‘was ripped open from eye to jaw’ and this taught Buck another valuable lesson ‘there was no fair play. Once down, that was the end of you. ‘ So Buck learned that he would never go down. The chapter is set in the ever wintry Alaska, covered in a blanket of white snow. Buck describes that, ‘there was imperative need to be constantly alert’. This was because he felt that if he shut his eyes for even one moment he would surely be savaged by Spitz, the malevolent leader of the sled dogs.
The chapter uses plenty of adjectives to help describe what the scenery looks like, for example, even though it snows most of the time in Alaska, it is still quite sunny despite whereabouts it is in the world. After Buck has woken up from a night ‘wrestling with bad dreams’ he finds that he has been buried by last nights snowfall. He struggles, ‘while his whole body contracted spasmodically and with a ferocious snarl he bounded up into the blinding day, the snow flying about him in a flashing cloud. ‘ This sentence gives you a picture of a small campsite covered with snow.
However the blinding sun gives the surroundings an orange glow from the sunrise. Another example of the setting is when Buck and the rest of the dogs are running along the trail and London describes to the reader what they are running past and through. This sentence, full of commas, shows that the dogs are travelling great distances along frozen ground, through very deep snow drifts and across rugged terrain that would be impossible to cross for any ordinary dog. This also shows the dogs experience and that they can come out triumphant over even the hardest obstacles. As well as the dogs taking on human roles they also behave and act in some ways the same as humans. The chapter is mainly about how Buck adapts to his surrounding environment and what he does in order to achieve this and survive. It shows Bucks ability to learn from what he sees and the mistakes he makes.
For example he learns many of his lessons from the other more experienced dogs. He is placed between Dave and Sol-leks so he might ‘receive instruction’ and that ‘he was an apt student and they were equally apt teachers, never allowing him to linger long in error, and enforcing their teaching with sharp teeth. ‘ This shows that dogs just like humans have the ability to teach as well as to learn and also punishment would be given out if a mistake was made. In the dogs case getting bitten was a form of punishment much like being given detention or getting the cane in human terms.
After we receive these punishments we hopefully learn from them and know not to make the same mistake again, because we remember the consequences if we do. The surrounding environment affects the dogs’ behavior and how they have to adapt to it in order to survive. This chapter shows Bucks great adaptability to his surroundings and how he fights constantly just to stay alive a bit longer. He learns to keep warm in his sleep in his sleep by burying himself in a small hole and how he learns how to cunningly steal food from his masters to sedate his hunger pangs.
Only because, ‘it’s easier to do it, than not to do it. ‘ His body learns to get the last piece of nutriment from the most inedible food and that his muscles become hard as iron, and how his senses become greatly heightened. All this happens because Buck makes it happen just simply to survive. We can learn from this book that animals and humans are greatly alike and that sometimes animals may be more civilized than the species with the supposed ‘higher intelligence. ‘ However animals could also be much more uncivilized than you could ever imagine.
We can also learn that societies can be formed in any group of animals; all you need is someone to control how things are done. The dogs took on many human roles and acted in some ways exactly the same as humans do in the same role. The main character in the story, a cross breed called Buck represents the quiet one who’s only goal is to prove himself and succeed in the inhospitable Alaskan environment. We may place ourselves as humans, as the most important creatures on this planet, but this book proves that there is really no greater species, we can all act the same way and we all really have only one true goal.