The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Review by Ethan
The Call of the Wild is a novel by Jack London. Set in the late 19th century, it tells the
story of a dog named Buck, who is half St. Bernard and half sheepdog. Initially, Buck lives in the
Santa Clara Valley, on Judge Miller’s estate. There, he lives a luxurious life. However, this all
changes when the Klondike Gold Rush begins. With men having discovered gold in the
Klondike region of Canada, there is an influx of travelers to the area, as well as an increased
demand for dogs to pull sleds. As a result, Buck is stolen by the estate’s gardener and sold to
dog traders. While he initially resists, he is beaten by the traders into submission and promptly
shipped north to the Klondike region.
Upon arrival, Buck finds life in the north to be very different from the life that he is used
to. He immediately discovers the harshness of the environment when he witnesses the death of
a fellow dog, Curly, who was attacked and killed by a group of huskies. Buck is then sold to
Francois and Perrault, two mail carriers for the Canadian government. His new life demands
that he adapt and learn to survive. Thus, Buck begins to regain his wild instincts, learning to dig
holes in the ground to find a warm place to sleep, scavenge for food, and defend himself. He
also becomes a rival to Spitz, the lead dog in Francois and Perrault’s dog pack. Overtime, Buck
begins to challenge Spitz for his position, which escalates into a fight between the two. At the
end of the fight, Buck kills Spitz and emerges victorious, becoming the pack leader.
With Buck now leading the team, Francois and Perrault make record time delivering
mail. However, the team is later given to another mail carrier, who has them pull much heavier
loads. By the end of this journey, the dogs are exhausted and handed over to another group of
owners. These owners, named Hal, Charles, and Mercedes, are inexperienced and
undisciplined. They take half a day to break camp, overload the sled, mistreat the dogs, and
have poor planning. In the middle of their journey, the group runs out of food, and the dogs
begin to starve. Though the dog team initially counted fourteen, the number dwindles to just five
by the time the group enters John Thornton’s camp. Thornton warns the group that the ice is
thin and could easily break, but Hal dismisses his warning. When Hal urges the dogs to begin
moving again, Buck refuses. This leads Hal to begin beating him, but Thornton intervenes,
stopping Hal and removing Buck from the harness. Hal curses Thornton and gets the sled to
start moving again, but the group does not get very far before the ice under them breaks and
the owners, along with the remaining dog team, drown.
Thornton then becomes Buck’s master, to whom Buck shows complete devotion. He
saves Thornton from drowning in a river, attacks a man who picks a fight with Thornton, and
wins Thornton $1600 through a bet. While Thornton searches for gold, Buck explores the wild,
meeting wolves and bears. With each journey, Buck makes sure to return to Thornton. One day
however, he returns to camp to find Thornton dead, having been attacked by Natives. With that,
Buck no longer has a master, and fully embraces the wild, becoming the leader of a wolfpack.
One thing interesting about the novel is the theme about primitive instincts. The novel
favors the nature side in the nature vs. nurture debate. It showcases how Buck not only learns
the ways of the wild in order to survive, but also recovers his natural instincts and embraces his
true calling in the end. London shows that animals’ natural behaviors have been buried by a
civilized life, and suggests that the same idea could be applied to humans as well.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It tells a compelling story from the
perspective of a dog, and explores various interesting themes. I would rate this novel a 10/10
and recommend it to those who enjoy reading about animals and adventure.