The Call of the WIld

By: Jack London Article by: Joey McHugh

Buck the Dog

Buck, the protagonist in Call of the Wild, is a tidewater dog who lived a good life in Santa Clara Valley until he was taken and forced into slavery. He was forced to carry heavy sleds through frozen land. In addition, he was beaten and given little to no food. There are no rules or morality here, referred to as "the law of club and fang," a kill-or-be-killed, ruthless way of thinking.


Throughout the story, Buck is faced with many difficult challenges. In the beginning of the book, Buck has to struggle for power against another dog, Spitz. They fight for territory and to be the leader of the pack. Inevitably, they have a fight to the death and Buck is victorious, taking over as the leader of the sled team. Another challenge that the entire pack faced was being sold from their previous owners to new owners. Although the other owners, Perrault and Francois, were abusive, they were also organized and could get the job done. The new owners, Hal, Charles, and Charles' wife, Mercedes, were very unorganized and did not know what they were doing. They brought on 5 untrained dogs to the team, brought an extremely head load along with them, and were first overfed then ran out of food and nearly starved to death. The leaders are so unorganized that they end up killing everyone, including themselves, except for Buck.
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Theme and Characterization

The theme helps advance the plot in the story because it depicts the environment that the dog sled team has to endure, and specifically Buck because he went from California climate to very cold climate. An example of this is “At the first step upon the cold surface, Buck's feet sank into a white mushy something very like mud. He sprang back with a snort. More of this white stuff was falling through the air. He shook himself, but more of it fell upon him. He sniffed it curiously, then licked some up on his tongue. It bit like fire, and the next instant was gone. This puzzled him. He tried it again, with the same result. The onlookers laughed uproariously, and he felt ashamed, he knew not why, for it was his first snow.” This shows that Buck is completely out of his environment.

Not just the theme but characterization helped advance the plot too. Hal and Charles are described as less organized and weaker than the previous owners. "Charles was a middle-aged, lightish colored man, with weak and watery eyes and a mustache that twisted fiercely and vigorously up, giving the lie to the limply drooping lip it concealed. Hal was a youngster of nineteen or twenty, with a big Colt's revolver and a hunting knife strapped about him on a belt that fairly bristled with cartridges. This belt was the most salient thing about him. It advertised his callowness--a callowness sheer and unutterable." This shows that Buck doesn't believe in his owners and he thinks of them as weak and immature.


Overall, I would recommend this book because its fast-paced drama hooks the reader reader. That said, it also reflects the sensibilities of another age. This is a story of survival, which entails a great deal of brutality by and toward dogs. It may be a bit much for sensitive young animal lovers of today, when beating dogs with clubs is not considered an acceptable way of training them. Dogs fight each other to the death, and tear out the throats of dogs and men, yielding geysers of blood when the jugular is ripped open. Buck, the canine main character, is often beaten, once almost to death. But ultimately, this is a story of dignity and leadership that will grip kids and hold them.