A Person's Treatment of Animals in The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Have you ever noticed a similarity in someone’s behavior that is consistent with everything they do? In the novel The Call of the Wild, by Jack London, a dog named Buck is put through a series of multiple owners that treat him and his fellow sled dogs differently depending on their character. There are many themes that are conveyed throughout the novel, however the major theme about humans’ treatment of animals conveyed in The Call of the Wild is that A person’s treatment of animals can somewhat portray their behavior and mannerisms toward other people.
This is most noticeable through the behaviors of Buck’s owners Hal, Charles, Mercedes, and John Thornton.
Hal, Charles, and Mercedes, a group of Bucks owners, support the theme. At the beginning of chapter five, the trio is prepping their sled to head to Dawson, when some bystanders attempt to give them advice on lightening the load to make the labor of pulling the sled easier.
The three retaliate and claim that they know what they are doing and don’t need assistance. Hal then orders the dogs to go, but when they aren’t able to pull the sled, Hal becomes agitated. “The lazy brutes, I’ll show them’ [Hal] cried preparing to lash at them with the whip” (London 94). He then proceeds to repeatedly whip the dogs until one of the bystanders stops him and tells Hal it would benefit both the trio and their dogs if they broke the runners out of the ice. This time Mercedes it the one to speak. “Never mind that man,” she said pointedly, “You’re driving our dogs and you do what you think is best for them” (London 95). After another failed attempt to move the sled, Hal listens to the bystanders and they head off. From this event, it is clear that Hal, Charles, and Mercedes are stubborn and ignorant to the wild and its dangers. They also have a disregard for others opinions and needs. This is both shown in the way they neglect the dogs’ need for rest and ignore the bystanders’ advice.
Later in the sled team’s journey, they come across John Thornton’s camp, which they stop at for a small break. At this point, the entire sled team is exhausted from not receiving proper amounts of rest or food during their long journey. Hal tells Thornton that they plan to cross a lake that is frozen over. John Thornton warns them that the ice isn’t strong enough to hold the sled, the team, and the three of them at the same time. Hal ignores the advice and demands the dogs to rise. All of them are able to, except for Buck, who doesn’t move at all. This enrages Hal, causing him to continue to whip. When Buck once again resists his demand, Hal exchanges his whip for a club and continues to beat Buck with it until, “John Thornton sprang upon the man who wielded the club. Hal was hurled backward, as though struck by a falling tree” (London 113). The two fight and exchange threats. Thornton cuts Buck’s harness off of him. Hal is too enraged to care and, despite Thornton’s warnings, steers the sled onto the lake’s ice, which moments later breaks, plunging the entire team and the trio into frozen water. The entire team drowns except for Buck, who is now in the possession of his new owner John Thornton. This instance once again displays Hal, Charles and Mercedes’s ignorance, while also introducing John Thornton’s character. He heavily contrasts the trio in the way that he treats his dogs as well as other people. When with his dogs and others, “He never forgot a kindly greeting or a cheery word, and to sit down for a long talk was as much his delight as theirs” (London 119). Thornton also serves as a mediator in some situations. For example, “Black Burton, a man evil-tempered and malicious, had been picking a quarrel with a tenderfoot at the bar, when Thornton stepped good-naturedly between” (London 126). Overall, John Thornton is a good person and the most ideal master compared to Buck’s previous owners. He is friendly, caring, and treats his dogs with the same high respect as people.
Though not completely apparent, there are many other examples throughout The Call of the Wild in which a person’s treatment of animals. Francois and Perrault, for example, are respectful and have a friendly work-based relationship with the dogs and one another. The man in the red sweater is cruel with Buck and does not show mercy until Buck surrenders to him. Though not receiving much character development, it is assumable that he would not be as accommodating or friendly as John Thornton based on his treatment with Buck. In conclusion, a person’s treatment of animals can depict their treatment of other people.
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