The Call of theWild by Jack London

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This isn’t the first time I’ve read Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. I think it might be the third time; however, I know it’s at least the second time. I also know that it’s the first of London’s works that I read which lead to some of his other more well-known novels and a lot of short stories. In fact, at one time, London was the by far the most tagged author on my blog. Since I noticed that he’s fallen behind some other authors, I thought I’d help get him caught up. I only  have three stories left for my Deal Me In 2015 short story project and one of those is a London story so I’ll have another post of his work here in the near future.

Another more personal reason for reading The Call of the Wild is the newest member of my household – a three year-old Siberian Husky named Jakoby. It’s only been three weeks but he is pretty much a part of the family, now. Buck, the protagonist in The Call of the Wild, in my mind has always been a husky; however, he is actually half St. Bernard and half Shepherd dog.

From previous reading(s), I remembered Buck’s grueling transformation from domesticated hunting dog to wild wolf of the Yukon. I did not remember the passages about his relationship with John Thornton. As sentimental as it might sound, I keep thinking for these passages as the “love” passages. The title of the chapter that includes these is “For the Love of a Man”:

Love, genuine passionate love, was his for the first time. This he had never experienced at Judge Miller’s down in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. With the Judge’s sons, hunting and tramping, it had been a working partnership; with the Judge’s grandsons, a sort of pompous guardianship; and with the Judge himself, a stately and dignified friendship. But love that was feverish and burning, that was adoration, that was madness, it had taken John Thornton to arouse.

Another reason this “love” chapter takes on more meaning at the end of the book is that this love doesn’t go on forever. The loss of it is simply one more example of both man and nature’s brutality – a theme found in so many of Jack London’s works. The manner in which London finally moves Buck permanently into the wildness of his ancestors is writing that is truly breath-taking:

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.

 

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2 responses to “The Call of theWild by Jack London

  1. I’m going to agree and disagree. I’ve been reading this book every year for many years now since I teach it to my seventh graders who mostly like it but don’t love it. It’s the good writing in the book that keeps me going back to it each year. My students do get the good writing. It’s not all good writing, but there are some great sections as you note above.

    But I do think Buck continues to love John Thornton and to remember him even after his death. Not in the human sense that we mean when say love, but he does return to the place of Thornton’s death which I take as a sign of lasting affection, though I’m sure Buck doesn’t fully understand why he is returning.

    You can probably guess that there have been some discussions about this in my class.

    • Great insight! I think reading this novel with seventh graders every year would be a fantastic experience.

      It probably would have been more accurate in my post to have said that the actual relationship between John Thornton and Buck doesn’t go on forever. I agree with you that the love Buck feels for Thornton doesn’t go away. After Thornton’s death, it just can’t be manifested in the same manner.

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