Fatherly Influence in Into the Wild

“Each day mankind and the claims of mankind slipped farther from him. Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire, and to plunge into the forest…” (London 33). With statements such as this, Jack London’s Call of the Wild epitomizes the inner urging of freedom and control that come from embracing nature and abandoning societal ideals. Depicting the innate call Buck has to abandon mankind, Jack London shows Buck’s revelation that causes him to reject modern society in place of living freely with the Alaskan world of nature. Buck submits to his primordial desire and calling to the wilderness in Alaska rather than reverting to living as a domesticated dog in the hands of a human owner. Learning to adapt and embrace nature and the wild proved to be Buck’s true call to freedom and happiness for himself. Like Buck, Chris McCandless, the nonconformist depicted in Into the Wild, also found a calling in nature and learned to adapt to living alone within the confines of the wilderness, believing happiness arises from living simply. Contrary to Buck, who was initially forced into this decision, Chris made the choice on his own to reject authority figures and modern society, motivated by both his resentment for his father and his lack of freedom in everyday settings. In Into the Wild, John Krakauer illustrates how Chris McCandless’ relationship with his controlling father led him to resent and condemn authoritative figures later in his life.

In his childhood, Chris often felt suppressed and enraged due to the authority of his father; in fact, Chris visibly showed signs of annoyance and anger with his father, often bitterly submitting to his father’s demands. While hiking a mountain together, Walt dictated that Chris stop after a certain while, “but Chris wanted to keep going to the top. I told him no way. He was only twelve then, so all he could do was complain” (Krakauer, 109). Walt’s assertiveness deeply contrasted the innate free-spiritedness of Chris, as Krakauer shows with this example. Krakauer exhibits to the reader that this was one of many experiences in Chris’ childhood in which Chris’ requests to his father were met with harsh refusals and restrictions, leading Chris to complain and eventually suffer silently. Domineering and assertive, Walt presented constant rejections to Chris’s requests that led Chris to learn how to cope with not having any control, further leading Chris to suppress his visible rage: “Chris submitted to Walt’s authority through high school and college to a surprising degree, but the boy raged inwardly all the while” (Krakauer, 64). Krakauer offers this statement to show how Chris later allowed himself to be controlled, visibly showing no signs of resistance to his father’s domineering persona. While showing no apparent signs, Chris possessed a deep contempt and deep-rooted grudge against his father, psychologically alienating him from Walt while also leading him to condemn similar forms of authority. After Chris’s childhood morphed into adulthood, he began to find more reasons to resent his father, not just for his controlling persona, but now his for moral character as well: “After Chris unearthed the particulars of Walt’s divorce, two years passed before his anger began to leak to the surface, but leak it eventually did. The boy could not pardon the mistakes his father had made as a young man” (Krakauer, 122). His already firm animosity towards his father only hardened once he found another reason to condemn Walt. Due to this, Chris not only had contempt for his father’s authoritativeness but also zero respect for his father as well, eventually losing respect altogether for authoritative figures.

As a result of Walt’s restrictiveness, Chris later exhibits resentment and defiance towards authority figures when embarking on his journey. In this defiance to authority figures, Chris completely abandons any ideology that doesn’t fit into his core belief in total autonomy and freedom. When questioned about his name, Chris, rejecting his previous identity, responds, “Just Alex” (Krakauer, 4). By refusing to acknowledge his birth-given name, Chris shows his defiance to the identity his parents forcefully put upon him, even though it was simply just a name. Eventually, Chris begins to show his defiance of any law which he feels hinders his freedom, as shown when Chris adamantly exclaims “Hell no” in response to whether he possesses a hunting license, also mentioning, “How I feed myself is none of the government’s business. F*ck their stupid rules” (Krakauer, 6). By exclaiming this, Chris shows complete disregard and disdain towards the government, viewing accepted laws as “stupid rules” infringing upon his privacy and freedom. Subsequently, Chris, resenting the authority of his parents, outright rejects his parents’ offer to buy him a car, stating that he couldn’t “believe they’d try and buy me a car ” (Krakauer, 29). Thus, Chris exposes his feelings of disgust for their action, perceiving it as a bribe to secure his respect. By vocalizing his beliefs along these lines in his letter, Chris again characterizes the authority figures as manipulative and controlling, asserting that they infringe upon his trust and independence.

In Into the Wild, John Krakauer depicts how Chris McCandless’ relationship with his authoritative and restraining father led Chris to harbor strong feelings of defiance and resentment towards authority figures. Whether parents deny their children independence or refuse to allow them to be free, raising children in an authoritarian household can lead to detrimental consequences not only for the child’s life but also for the child’s mental stability. A survey conducted a few years ago concluded that kids raised with punitive discipline and controlling parents have tendencies towards anger and defiance (University of New Hampshire, 2012). This was the case with Chris McCandless, who while growing under his father’s restrictive household gained extreme feelings of resentment and contempt for both his father and the controlling aspects of society in general. Thus, by showing the effects of authoritarian parenting, Krakauer shows the reader why Chris craved that independence and freedom to the point where he yearned to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness. A transformation epitomized by the emotions of anger, resentment, and contempt illustrates to the reader how Chris’ emotions were the main perpetrator in his push to live with nature, a decision which proved fatal later on.

The Biting of the Snow- Buck’s Evolution Through Call of the Wild

“It is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodeling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the directions of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.”This eye-opening statement was made by Thomas H. Huxley and a great amount of information can be gathered from it. It has long been known that those who adapt survive and those who do not perish. It is the nature of things. This occasionally harsh reality was portrayed immensely well in Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. Four times Buck’s adaptability shines and leads him to success, while others whose adaptability is less, die. The vast Yukon tundras and gargantuan mountains are definitely not the environments for one to live in save for the harshest and strongest of dogs. His encounter with the man in the red sweater, how he studies and analyzes the more experienced dogs, how he reverts back to the primitive, and how his fastidious characteristics from the Southland vanish all depict Buck’s flexibility that is the origin of his enormous victory over life.Buck’s meeting of the man in the red sweater is his welcoming gift to the north. Here he learns one of the most fundamental laws and it is here where he must choose the decision of adaptation. Buck is a proud creature and when he is treated as poorly as he is, he understandably desires revenge. This revenge he attempts to unleash upon the man in the red sweater. Alas, he is victim to the cruelest of beatings. Eventually, he arrives upon the realization that the man in the red sweater will continue this beating until his death if he himself continues his actions. This realization allows him to adapt to the situation, to realize the law of the land and how he too must live by it if he is to live. “He was beaten (he knew that); but he was not broken. He saw, once and for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He had learned the lesson, and in all his later life never forgot it,” (16). For had he not adapted to the situation, he would have died like he saw other dogs that came in.The Arctic is perhaps the most callous and ruthless environment on this earth and to be flung into it with previous experience only of the south in California, is undoubtedly a shock to the senses. A majority of the Southland dogs that came to the gold rush did in fact die from this drastic change. Yet, one thing came to Buck’s aid and that was how he watched the other, more experienced dogs adapt to the biting snow and harsh life. He learned his second fundamental law from Curly’s incident with the other huskies. “All was confusion and action, and every moment life and limb were in peril. There was imperative need to be constantly alert, for these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. There were savages, all of them, who knew no law but the law of club and fang,” (25-26). Curly who could not adapt to this fact was indeed torn to pieces. The freezing temperatures would have killed him if he did not make a nest in the snow by digging a hole and curling into a ball. He would not have been able to get a drink if he did not strike the ice with his forepaws. He would not eat had he not learned to eat quicker. In short, he, too, would have met his fate.Buck answering the call of the wild, reverting back to the primitive, also allowed him to thrive as well as he did. Wolves had become supreme examples of those who survive among the Arctic through years of evolution, and Buck, too, through adaptation, became a wolf. His instincts became immensely greater. His senses were heightened beyond belief. He gained the patience and persistence that could conquer even the mighty moose. He became capable of scenting the wind and forecasting the weather a night in advance and to eat anything. “And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him,” (39). The wild was the master of the Arctic, so it follows that if Buck is to adapt to this land to the best of his ability, he must become wild.Along with Buck’s retrogression, the traits from his previous life, from his simple, easy life in Santa Clara vanished. These would only bring the Grim Reaper to hunt him down as it did with so many other dogs from the Southland. No, Buck would survive and to accomplish this he had to lose his old behaviors. He needed to be able to eat anything and squeeze every last nutrient out of his food. He needed to be able to gulp down his food as quickly as possible lest the others steal from him. He needed to be able to kill for his food, which he rapidly came to be a master at by killing the noblest of all creatures, man. He needed to forget about any fair play, the loss of which was well witnessed by how he sprang upon Spitz leading the revolt against him on page 58. “Civilized, he could have died for a moral consideration, say the defense of Judge Miller’s riding whip; but the completeness of his decivilization was now evidenced by his ability to flee from the defense of a moral consideration and so save his hide,” (38).The law of survival is simple. Adapt or perish. We are given the circumstances we are given and how we choose to adapt, or lack thereof, is what determines our destiny. This law is present everywhere and is perhaps the most ancient and most respected. In attempt to capture the harsh reality of the world and especially of the North, Jack London gives this law adequate esteem. Buck was flung from a world of civilization to a world of savagery and had he not come to adapt to this completely new world, he would have departed this life as did a myriad of other dogs.