Influencing Conflict with Setting in Jack London’s The Call of the Wild
Conflict can be explained by a main character struggling against another force. In The Call of The Wild, Buck, the main character has the recurring conflict of character versus nature. This is exemplified in the text; “Buck’s first day on the Deya beach was like a nightmare. Every hour was filled with shock and surprise”(8). The setting influences the conflict and creates character versus nature in various ways. The ways this essay will go over are the bitter cold Buck must overcome, the way in which Buck adapts to the weather while traversing the Yukon, and the changes Buck incurs while being in solitude chasing prey.
Furthermore, the setting influences the conflict through the unrelenting cold Buck experiences as he traverses the Yukon. His first night in the wild he discovers how to survive until the next day. “He lay down on the snow and attempted to sleep, but the frost soon drove him shivering to his feet”(11). Buck was struggling to adapt to the cold when he first arrived in the new environment, and in doing so, he displays the conflict of character versus nature. Francois, the dog-driver noticed Buck’s feet becoming sore and decided to make moccasins for Buck (18), further explaining the conflict that Buck is struggling with nature. Buck’s body is slowly adapting to the weather. He begins to show his adaptability to the wild throughout the story.
Consequently, Buck realizes that he can adapt to the weather, and he obtains a new found confidence. As Buck begins to overcome the struggle against the weather, he also begins to thrive. Buck is showing that he is a force to be reckoned with:
This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death. It marked, further, the decay or going to pieces of his moral nature, a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. (13)
Some would have thought that a dog from California has no place in the Yukon, and here is Buck showing that he has what it takes. Buck comes to understand, because of his size, that he has the potential to become the leader of the dog sled team. The only entity in his way is Spitz. “There was no hope for him. Buck was inexorable. Mercy was a thing for gentler climes”(24). With Spitz taken care of, Buck attempts to assume lead position, only to be put in Sol-leks trace. Consequently, Buck refuses to be tied in any other harness, except for the one he knew he had earned. As a result, Buck uses his persistence and confidence to sway the minds of Hal and Charles, making them give him lead.
Having gained a new found confidence Buck realizes he is able to fend for himself. When Buck is by himself in the wild, he encounters a member of the local wolf pack. Buck then befriends the wolf, and they play. Buck continues out alone hunting for his supply of food: rabbits, fish, and a bear. The killing of his meals fueled his bloodlust for bigger and more noble game, this bloodlust is being unearthed by Buck’s feelings of his wild ancestor’s spirits inside him. When he is out in the wild on his own Buck’s image of the wild has changed from being a formidable unruly place to that of a thing of laws and untold rules only learned by experience. At the very end of the novel the setting is, in the wild, at night with Buck being surrounded by the wolf pack, here, Buck is struggling against beings of nature.
In conclusion, within this novel, there are various ways the setting influences the main conflict occurring. Such ways are explained as Buck’s struggles against the cold, Buck’s adaptations to the wild weather, and his solitude with-in the wild changing the fight against nature. The various settings showed dramatic changes in Buck’s character and attitude toward life. Buck becomes a strong lead dog and a ravenous beast, at times. Although, previously a Santa Clara Valley dog, Buck became a true being of the wild, that had been beckoned out, by the call of the wild.
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