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.

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