Jack London’s Call of the Wild. Controversial Themes in the Novel. Buck Character Analysis
The Call of the Wild
What if you were torn away from, you home, your family, and everything that was ever familiar? Would you adapt, or be utterly enveloped in chaos? In the superb novel Call of the Wild by Jack London teaches us, his readers, that anyone or thing can be taken from his surroundings and hurled into a world where one must learn to survive. Buck, a domesticated dog from the sunny Santa Clara valley is forced into the Yukon because man needs the strength and durability he has if man will be successful in unearthing the yellow metal, gold. Now, he has two choices: endure the savage and ruthless world he now is governed by, or become a name forgotten, unable to keep his head above water when the rapids come. His life begins to change as he must use what he has, and adapt to harness the thing he does not possess. Slowly, instincts replace rules, and the wild became more friendly than savage, for he is more ruthless than a tiger on the prowl. Finally, a terrible transformation comes over him, forever erasing the dog who lived with the Millers, and replacing it with the great Ghost dog. Buck’s incredible life is merely an easel upon which London paints the theme of his masterpiece.
After Buck’s horrible trip to a place far different from home, he has to “learn the ropes” of this society, and modify to its rules. When he reaches Seattle, the Man in the Red Sweater is the man who teaches Buck the first rope, “The Law of Club.” As soon as he is within reach of the man’s throat, he has the freedom force, and almost the will to live, beaten out of him. Ready to expect what is to come, Buck travels to the Northlands. His first night was like most nights in that barren land; The ground is icy and cold, and sleeping the same way as in the Santa Clara Valley was out of the question. After an unsuccessful attempt at entering the tent, he walked throughout the camp, finally discovering that his mates burrowed into the snow to create a nice, warm nest. “So that was how they did it, eh?” Buck thought. (Pg. 705) His adaptation stage completed with a stealing move that not only got him away scott free. When Francois wasn’t looking, Buck made a sly move, taking some of his luscious bacon. Irritated, he scanned the area for the culprit, and his eyes settled upon, not Buck, bug Dub. Dub, the clumsy oaf, is blamed for Bucks cunning maneuver. “. . .Dat. Buck two devils.” Francios once said. (Pg. 719) After this early stage, I’d say I’d have to agree with him. Buck has learned the ropes. He adapts quickly and well.
Buck’s mind and soul do not stop with adaptation; ancient instincts that his ancestors used set in quickly. The most potent and easily seen example is when he chases a snowshoe hare. This may all seem normal, but you soon learn that there is only one thought in his mind,”To kill with (my) own teeth and wash (my) muzzle to the eyes in warm blood.” (Pg. 717) Soon after, a confrontation to the death with Spitz changes his life forever. Although Spitz is the more experienced, Buck triumphed over him. Why, you ask? “. . . Buck possessed a quality that made for greatness – imagination.” (Pg. 719) After the fight, Buck’s instincts did not stop coming. Sometimes, sitting around the fire, he sees a hairy man with a club, a man known only to his ancestors. Buck knew he cared the man deeply; he did not know it was a cave man from thousands of years before. As Buck’s instincts emerged, his control over himself weakens. He has passed the point of no return.
In the end, the terrible transformation takes place; the wild would not allow Buck even a breath out of its grasp. When he moves west with John Thornton, he begins to enjoy the wild. Soon, he runs into a timber wolf that’s less than half Buck’s size, and after much work and effort, becomes friendly with the savage from another world. Buck even follows the wolf through the woods, until his love for John Thornton turns him back for camp. Later, Buck spends a trip away from the camp looking for formidable prey, when he spots a monstrous bull moose. “He was in a savage temper, and, standing over six feet from the ground, was as formidable an antagonist as even buck could desire.” After four unimaginably grueling days for dog and moose alike, the moose is finally triumphed over by the courageous Buck using nothing less than skill that animals have possessed for millions of years. In the end, Buck faces a wolf pack of uncountable numbers, and, after a fight in which his mouth dripped of wolven blood, the pack decides to befriend Buck, and recruit him. It is said to have happened like this. “. . . an old wolf . . . sat down pointed his nose at the moon, and broke out in the long wolf howl. The others sat down and howled. . . . (Buck) too, sat down and howled.” Buck had truly answered the Call of the Wild.
Buck’s life shows that there are people who have an undying will you survive. First in adaptation, Buck modifies his life to fit that of the ones who survived the best. Then the instincts come from his primal ancestors long ago. Finally, the terrible transformation occurs that ends the mutilation of the soul that Judge Miller had created, by destroying it, and in that destruction, birthing something that only needed to be aroused, the Dominant Primordial Beast. Buck’s life in the north is not an isolated incident. Adaptation to “fit in” happens everywhere because humankind, or the great leaders anyway, will do anything to live. I believe that it will continue to happen even beyond Mother Nature and Father Time.
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The Call of the Wild What if you were torn away from, you home, your family, and everything that was ever familiar? Would you adapt, or be utterly enveloped in […]