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Literary Analysis of The Call of The Wild by Jack London

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The Call of The Wild by Jack London is an adventurous novel about the story of a young St. Bernard named Buck who is stripped from his peaceful home as a domestic pet and turned into a stone-cold sled dog in the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush. The story shows the evolution of Buck after he is abducted from a peaceful ranch in a rural part of Canada where he ruled. When he’s taken, he is transported through many areas until he is finally sold off to a French Canadian man named Perrault. Along with his colleague Francois, Perrault starts to raise Buck to become a sled dog along many other canines with polarizing personalities. As a homegrown dog with everything to himself, Buck is forced to rekindle his natural instincts. This is not only required to perform as a sled dog, but also needed to survive in the extreme conditions of the harsh Canadian and Alaskan winters. Although a quick learner, these attributes will not come without hardships. Buck will have to face many challenges such as finding independence, teamwork, and controlling his pride which are all prominent reoccurring themes in the book. Through Jack London’s extremely descriptive authors style the reader is truly able to follow and visualize Buck’s story every step of the way in The Call of The Wild.

The story begins in 1897 with a dog named Buck residing a large house in Santa Clara Valley, California that is owned by Judge Miller. One day a poor employee of Miller’s sneaks off with Buck and sells him off to a group of people who knock him out and put him into a baggage car. The group of men takes Buck to a camp owned by a man in a red sweater who beats him into submission with a club after he tries to retaliate multiple times. Other dogs circulate through the camp until eventually Buck and another dog named Curly are transported onto a ship with two men named Francois and Perrault, along with two more dogs named Dave and Spitz. Upon arriving to Dyea beach, Curly is attacked by a pack of huskies and is killed; Spitz finds this humorous which causes Buck to feel hatred towards him immediately. After the matter Buck quickly learns how to pull a sled and three more dogs are added to the sled team. The first day cycle passes, and Buck starts to see the first signs of his natural instincts returning, three more dogs are added making for a full team of nine led by Spitz. Tensions start to rise between Buck and Spitz as he repeatedly attacks Buck during points in which he is weak. After more tension builds a rabbit chase leads Buck and Spitz to the fateful battle; Spitz starts to overpower Buck at first, but, Buck is able to fake him out and finish Spitz with a bite to the leg. Buck promptly accepts the leadership position in place of Spitz and the team is able to reach their final destination in record time. This allows them to gain fame for a short while, Francois and Perrault however, were led elsewhere from their executives and the team is sold off to group of Scotsman.

The Scotsman focus on more heavy loads rather than making good time and they also recollected more memories of Bucks ancestors from the primitive times because of their physical features. Thirty days later they are handed off to a new very inexperienced team of three young people, along with six new under qualified dogs making for a team of 14 dogs; unrested from the last endeavor, the sled starts back up again. The poor resource management and general neglect of the new team leaves all but five dogs dead and the rest barely alive. They finally reached John Thornton’s camp and although warned of the dangerous state of the frozen lake, the group insists on moving forward. Even after being beat with the club multiple times Buck refuses to continue on with the team seeing the formidable future; Thornton and Buck then watch the rest of the sled crew drop down into the icy lake, never to be seen again. Buck starts to regain his strength back while his bond with Thornton becomes unbreakable, but, his natural instincts also start growing rapidly and he begins to hear strange calls from the forest. Buck ends up saving Thornton’s life twice, and winning him a 1600 dollar bet with a rich man that he couldn’t pull a 1000 pound sled. After Thornton moves up north with the money, Buck befriends a timber wolf after finally answering the call of the forest. He continues to leave camp for extended periods of time until he creates two different identities for himself; a wild animal and Thornton’s dog. One day when he is returning to camp he finds that Thornton and all of his acquaintances has been slain by the Yeehat Indians; out of vengeance he kills most of the tribe, while scaring the rest of them off. Buck comes back to the wolves to fully integrate himself into the pack and according to the Yeehats, returns to the valley of Thornton’s death every year to mourn his fallen master.

The tone of The Call of the wild is primarily expressed through Bucks emotions in the book. London obviously feels positively towards Buck, but also sympathy when describing his emotions. A good example of this is when he is describing the Bucks emotions while he is locked up in the cage by the man in the red sweater, “And Buck, truly a red eyed devil as he drew himself together for the spring, hair bristling, mouth foaming, a mad glitter in his blood-shot eye.” The tone here is intense and suspenseful because of the way that London conveys it through the way Buck feels. The diction of The Call of The Wild presents a formal and extremely descriptive word choice when describing certain events in the book. An example of this is when we are introduced to Judge Millers home in the beginning of the book, “Buck lived in a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Judge Millers Place, it was called. It stood back from the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached by grappled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars.” These very in depth description of the exterior of the house was not needed to understand the story, but contributes to the imagery and Jack Londons extremely descriptive diction.

London uses a large amount of figurative language in The Call of the wild; mostly consisting of imagery, symbolism, similes, and metaphors. During the time Buck attacks the Yeehat Indians, London writes, “It was Buck, a live hurricane of fury, hurling himself upon them in a frenzy to destroy. He sprang upon the foremost man (it was the chief of the Yeehats), ripping the throat wide open till the rent jugular spouted a fountain of blood.” In this sentence there are 2 metaphors, along with imagery; the reader is able to clearly visualize the Indians throat being ripped opened along with feeling all of Bucks built up rage against the Indians. An example of a simile is when buck finally starts to realize the progression of his physical being after becoming an experienced sled dog, “His development (or retrogression) was rapid. His muscles became hard as iron, and he grew callous to all ordinary pain.” In this simile, it shows the progression of buck from a domestic dog, to a sled dog by comparing his muscles to iron. There is one main reoccurring symbol throughout entire the book, being the man in the red sweater from the beginning of the story. After Buck is beaten by the man in the red sweater and truly defeated for the first time in his life; he is introduced to the philosophy of primitive law, “That club was a revelation. It was the introduction to the reign of primitive law, and he met the introduction half way.” Primitive law is a reoccurring idea in the book that simply means strength rules, and every time this idea presents itself, Buck relates it back to the man in the red sweater.

The sentence structure of The Call of the Wild is very parallel and descriptive. London uses many compound complex sentences when describing important events like Buck running with his pack in the winter night, “When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.” This sentence includes two independent and two dependent clauses to create a very descriptive sentence. London maintains this structure most of the time throughout the book to create lots of imagery in the important parts of the story. This formatting makes the book a lot more interesting to read because the reader can feel like they are experiencing the book first hand.

Although there are many themes in The Call of The Wild, the most prominent one in the story is survival of the fittest. Buck is able to prove that he is the alpha dog by out living over 15 dogs in the same situation as him. By regaining his instincts and learning from others, his decision making and physical capabilities become unmatched. “When he saw Pike, one of the new dogs, a clever malingerer and their slyly steal a piece of bacon when Perrault’s back was turned, he duplicated the performance the following day, getting away with a whole chunk. A great uproar was raised, but he was unsuspected; while Dub, an awkward blunderer who was always getting caught, was punished for Buck’s misdeed.” This contributes to the theme because it shows that Buck is more fit to survive than some other dogs, and is using his favorable attributes to get away with mischiefs, and in turn, reap the extra rewards. Another example of survival of the fittest is when buck refuses to go over the icy lake and decides to stay at Thornton’s camp instead, “They saw Charles turn and make one step to run back, and then a whole section of the ice gave way and dogs and humans disappear.” This contributes to the theme of survival of the fittest because Buck was the only dog smart enough to stay back at camp. He then watches the rest of his team sink down into dark water knowing that he made the right decision. The last example of survival of the fittest is when Buck takes down a wild moose “At the end of the fourth day, he pulled the great Moose down. For day and night he remained by the kill, eating and sleeping, turn and turn about.” At this point in the book, Buck has now become the apex predator, and has regained all of his natural instincts back from his ancestors. He then proves that he is at the top of the food chain by taking down a moose by himself; this further re-enforces the theme of survival of the fittest.

The Call of The Wild is an adventurous novel about Buck’s epic journey after being abducted from his home in California. Through hardships and turmoil, Buck is able to fully regain his natural instincts and become one with the wild. Jack London conveys every aspect of the story amazingly through his use of imagery and descriptive writing. Throughout the book he has expresses the tone through Bucks emotions. He uses symbols metaphors and imagery to help visualize the book in every part. His sentence structure is a mix of compound complex sentences to describe important events in the story, and simple sentences to describe the less vital parts. And the themes presented can teach great life lessons. When you think about it The Call of the Wild is truly a masterpiece.

Work Cited

  1. London, Jack. The Call of The Wild. Macmillian Inc., 1903.

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Literary Analysis Of The Call Of The Wild By Jack London. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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