The Call of the Wild Summary by Jack London – Literature Essay
The Gold Rush in the Yukon and Alaska has prompted the need for big strong dogs to pull sleds over icy trails. A large and strong dog named Buck, living in the sun-kissed
Santa Clara Valley, California, is exactly people want. Manuel, the assistant of the gardener of Buck’s master – Judge Miller, is in need for money, thus he kidnaps Buck and sells him on the black market. Buck is given to a saloon-keeper and then transported to the Northland.
Buck is insulted during the trip and has worked himself into a rage. He decides to start revenge when he meets the Red Sweater. However, the painful encounters with the club push Buck into submission. He begins to learn some laws of the primitive world.
Later Buck is sold to two Canadians, Francois and Perrault, with the other two dogs: Dave and Curly. While in camp, Curly is killed when she tries to show friendliness to a husky. After the experience Buck understands the law of the club and fang which dominates the new life he is headed for. He resolves never to go down in that manner.
Buck and Dave join a preexisting dog team led by Spitz, a husky. By the time they are on their way to Dawson, Alaska and Skaguay, Buck learns a lot and starts to become wilder. As the power grows, he is ready to take Spitz’s place and be a new leader. Therefore, while the hunting of a rabbit one day, the two end up with a fighting to the death. Spitz is killed and Buck gets his mastery. Right after the fight, Buck “fights” for his leading position in the team with Francois. It is victorious when he finally takes the position, because Buck earns his right and no longer allows human to decide his fate completely. They are equal.
When the government work is done, Buck, together with other dogs which are toiled to death, is sold to an imbecile group of people without any knowledge to survive the primitive land, Hal, Charles and Mercedes. Many dogs die because of the mistreating of their masters. Fortunately, Buck is saved by John Thornton and later becomes his favorite pet. Buck adores his master very much. Hence he does a number of miraculous deeds for him – saves his life twice and earns a large amount of money to pay off his debts. He enjoys the life with John though longing for the primitive world subconsciously.
While his master is working for gold on the mine, Buck muses on the call he hears during the night in the forest. Eventually he starts to sleep away from the camp and embraces his instincts and wild tendencies. After his master, without Buck’s protection, is killed by the invading Yeehats, Buck feels no more nostalgia for mankind and returns to the primitive land where he has been longing for. He finally answers the call of the wild.
Jack London’s novel, The Call of the Wild, is the most successful work that describes the life of the Alaska dogs in the history of literature. The novel has reflected some of London’s early wishes, which were formed during his childhood, and later developed in his later experiences. The shadow of his early experiences never goes out of his mind. In psychological point of view, one might get a strong sense of struggling in such living conditions. Therefore, most of London’s novels are about this theme – struggle to survive the tough reality. (Such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea Wolf.)
In his stories, Jack seems to show us the inner part of the animals, like the dogs, human’s loyal friends, have their innate wild instinct and acquired tameness; And a primitive world which has the overwhelming power of nature over human beings. In the primitive world, one has to struggle to survive the harsh environment; the animals are of no exceptions. As Buck, he is stolen and sold to be a sledge dog in the frozen North, thus he must try every means to adapt the cruel life.
The characters in his novels have to depend on the nature to survive. And nature is sometimes their friend and sometimes their enemy. The strong will of surviving of the characters in his novels show the solid part of human and animal’s vitality?With the plot of the stories, he also discusses the delicate relationship in the nature – thus the stronger beat the weaker.
At that time, the American people were facing the hard times in which the fittest survives. Thus Jack London’s novel was a great success after published because many people found it the origin of their energy.
In The Call of the Wild, London may want to describe an ideal character that struggles against the tough living conditions and becomes more mature through the struggling. Buck, the main character of the novel, a strong and intelligent dog with human tendencies and dignity, fight against his fate in the harsh environment. The important reason for Buck to manage his struggling is his remarkable ability of learning and his control over his emotions – he experiences sensation and transforms it into cold and logical response. However, there is an utter lack of analyzing in his mind at first. The confrontation with the Red Sweater is a turning point which forces Buck to realize the primitive law.
Buck’s experiences reveal the complicated relationship between nature and human. We are in awe of nature’s great power and challenge it a lot in order to “survive”. However we do not realize that there are various ways to survive the nature. “Challenge and conquer” may not be the only way. Like Buck in the novel, he finally merges into the nature and thus lives in harmony with the primitive creatures. This is the right attitude towards nature – to keep a balance.
Furthermore, there are a lot of metaphors in the novel. From the macro perspective, nature to Buck is like what society to Jack London. Both the human and the dog have been through the struggling against their living conditions: Buck (ideally) achieves his goal – he heeds the call and returns to the primitive lands where he belongs; while poor London still doesn’t know what the future is like when he finishes the draft of the novel, and finally lives with debts, alcoholism, illness and fear of losing his creativity for the rest of his life. And from the micro perspective, Spitz may bea metaphor for London’s political opponents because he tries to provoke Buck for several times and menaces the security of Buck. It may just like the situation of London when he was a member of the Socialist Party. However, Buck again succeeds in beating his enemy and takes his place as a leader, while in reality London fails on the Socialist party ticket for mayor of Oakland and starts steadily to be a writer. A few months before his death, London resigned from the Socialist Party. What’s more, the types of human beings in the novel are also the metaphors for the types of the upper class and the government in reality – some are cruel and only believe in club and fang, such as the Red Sweater; some are capable but work in a mechanical way, such as Francois and Perrault; some are ignorant, stupid but cling obstinately to their course such as Hal, Charles and Mercedes. The only kind of people London wants is like John Thornton, considerate and kind, yet there are few around him at that time.
To sum up, the novel is the reflection of the ideal life London yearns for, cruel but hopeful. Through reading, we can get the picture of the glorious history of the human beings and animals in the primitive lands.