Published: 1903 (so its available free from Project Gutenberg)
Genre: adventure fiction
Length: 231 pages
Setting: 1890s in the Yukon
Interest: I read it for American History Club. As soon as I knew we were doing westward expansion as a topic, I knew I wanted the boys to read some Jack London – the only question was should it be The Call of the Wild or White Fang.
Summary: Buck is stolen from a near-idyllic life in California and sent up north to become a sled-dog. Fortunately, Buck is a smart dog and he quickly learns the new laws of the land – the man with the whip or club rules, and among the dogs, it’s either fight or die. Buck very quickly decides he wants to be top sled-dog and he bides his time (and gets the other sled-dogs to rebel) until he can take on Spitz, the current sled leader. Buck is a superior leader and his mushers love him, but too many trips makes him and his team tired. He is sold to a greenhorn team who abuse their dogs (mostly from ignorance and stupidity). Late in the trip, Buck gives up and refuses to go further. He’s saved from being beaten to death by John Thornton, who captures his heart. Buck’s love for Thornton keeps him from becoming completely feral, at least until Thornton is killed by Native Americans.
Final thoughts: I know I’ve read this book before, but it was so long ago, I’d forgotten the energy and excitement London put in his writing. I flew through the book because I didn’t want to put it down. London wrote from Buck’s point of view, which meant the dogs’ personalities were more nuanced than the people’s’. People were noticed only in generalities, at least until Thornton came into Buck’s life. One interesting side note is that in Buck’s dreams by the fire, when he is regressing to a more primitive state, he sees a more primitive man at the fire. I never expected to see a bit of human evolution show up in The Call of the Wild. Overall, I’m very pleased I chose the book for American History Club. If you’ve never read the book, I highly recommend that you should.
Title comes from: The call of the wild was something Buck heard, mainly in the form of wolf howls.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 89/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge
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