The Call of the Wild is a novel written by Jack London. The story occurs in the inhospitable conditions of the Yukon in the 19th century’s Klondike Gold Rush where tough sled dogs were demanded highly (London 8). Following the snatching of Buck, a tamed dog, from a pastoral ranch in California, he is sold into a cruel life as a sled dog. London narrates how Buck struggles to adapt to the harsh environment and mistreatment from humans, other dogs, and nature. Finally, he abandons the affectations of civilization completely and rather depends on inborn instincts and the experience he had gained to become an esteemed and formidable leader in the wild. The main themes of this novel are survival for the fittest as well as fate versus freewill (London 12). The indigenous group of Alaska natives known as Yeehat depicted in the novel was a creation of London’s imagination.
Buck is a robust St. Bernard-Scotch shepherd dog living snugly in the Santa Clara valley of California as the indulged pet dog of a Judge called Miller. The dog is stolen by Manuel, an assistant gardener of the Judge, and sold off to settle a loss in an unfavorable bet. Buck is transferred to Seattle where he is teased and starved while in his crate. When he is ultimately freed from the crate, he faces and is thrashed by the “man in the red sweater”, in order to gain respect for the stick. The dog is later purchased by French-Canadians known as François and Perrault who deem him to be a rare dog. They ship him to Alaska where he is trained as a sled dog. He is quick to learn survival tactics for the cold winter nights and the pack community by watching the other dogs. Buck and the violent, confrontational lead dog, Spitz, become rivals. He finally defeats Spitz in a huge fight, and when Spitz is beaten, the other dogs move in and kill him. Buck then assumes the leadership of the team (London 16).
Ultimately, he is sold off to Hal, Charles, and a woman known as Mercedes who are seeking to make a lot of money by searching for gold. The trio is not familiar with sledding or making it in the Alaskan wilderness. They toil to manage the sled and snub cautions not to trek in the spring melt. To start with, they offer the dogs too much to eat and then when their food supplies begin to run low, they stop feeding them. As they continue with their travel, they meet John Thornton, a seasoned outdoorsman who observes that the dogs are in a poor state of health from not being taken care of by their handlers. He cautions the three not to cross the river but they do not take heed instead urging Buck to trek on (London 69). As a result of exhaustion, hunger, and sensing peril, Buck rebels by lying down on the snow. When Buck is flogged by Hal, Thornton realizes he is a precious dog and becomes annoyed by the driver’s ill treatment of the dog. Afterwards, he removes traces from Buck and informs the three that he is going to keep him which displeases Hal. Following some quarrel, the three leave and attempt to cross the river, but as Thornton had cautioned them, the ice yields to pressure and they fall into the river together with the other dogs and sled.
Thornton helps Buck to recover his health and the dog becomes a close and devoted friend of him. One day, the dog rescues him when he fells into a river. Buck begins friendship with the local wolves and in a certain day while returning from a brief hunt, he finds his master has been killed by Yeehat Indians (London 150). He avenges his master’s death by killing the Indians before going back to the wild to live with the wolves. Each year, Buck comes to the place of Thornton’s death to commemorate him.