“The Call of the Wild” by Jack London

The reader discovers Buck, a domesticated prize dog, as the effete pet of a Californian judge. When he is stolen by his master’s gardener to settle some gambling debts, Buck passes through a sequence of owners representing the highs and lows of humanity. Sold into a kind of canine slavery as an Alaskan sled dog, Buck ends up in the Yukon of the 1890s Klondike gold rush, a milieu familiar to the writer. Eventually, he becomes the property of a salt-of-the-earth outdoorsman named John Thornton who recognises Buck’s qualities and with whom the dog enjoys a deep, and affecting rapport.

Among many adventures, in extremis, Buck saves Thornton from drowning, but when his master is killed by Yeehat Indians, he gives in to his true nature, answers the call of the wild and joins a wolf pack: “Man, and the claims of man, no longer bound him.” Here, London is not just writing about dogs. He is expressing his belief, which owes something to Rousseau, that humanity is always in a state of conflict, and that the struggles of existence strengthen man’s nature.

London’s chapter titles – “Into the Primitive”, “The Law of Club and Fang” and “The Dominant Primordial Beast” – might appear to set London’s literary agenda. But what projects The Call of the Wild towards immortality is London’s urgent and vivid style, and his astonishing identification with the world he’s describing. His capacity to involve his readers in his story, regardless of literary subtlety, is what many generations of American writers became inspired by. For this alone, he deserves to be remembered. (full Guardian article here)

We read this in November 2014

7 members attended the meeting to discuss Call of the Wild by Jack London. The book was very much enjoyed with votes ranging from 5 to 10 average just over 7 (64 / 9 – 2 email votes). Although a short book there seemed to be enough material to make for a reasonable discussion.

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