The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Goodreads: The Call of the Wild

Summary: Buck lived a carefree existence in the Santa Clara Valley where he roamed the land and lorded it over the other dogs.  The discovery of gold in the Klondike, however, made dogs of his breed desirable in the north.  Sold to pull a sled in the Yukon, Buck must learn to adapt to a harsh new environment in order to survive.  Even as he begins to understand the rules of his captivity, however, the wild awakens in him a longing for freedom hitherto forgotten.  Considered a companion book to White Fang.

Review: London writes with masterful succinctness, conjuring images of a foreign landscape without succumbing to sentimentality or flourish.  The wild lands of the north live on his pages, enthralling his readers with their austere beauty and ever-present danger.  Lengthy descriptions never hinder the plot.  Rather, London captures the spirit of the Yukon by suggesting the indescribable splendor and freedom so craved by Buck.  The Yukon in effect functions as a protagonist in its own right, its story as gripping at that of Buck.  The Call of the Wild becomes an intricate dance between the two as Buck struggles at first to master nature and then to accept his place in it.

London plays a delicate balancing game in his portrayal of Buck’s story.  He writes from Buck’s perspective, anthropomorphizing the character enough that readers can relate to him, but maintaining Buck’s essential dogginess.  The result provides an incredibly believable version of a dog—intelligent, adaptable, proud, and loyal, but with a simpler understanding of morality and the laws of survival.  Readers will find themselves entering his world, rather than trying to make him enter theirs.

The story itself is pretty straightforward: an adventure tale, in many ways almost episodic, featuring dogs.  It has wide appeal for animal lovers, those interested in the Gold Rush, and those who enjoy stories about survival.  Though it does not have the amount of depth usually associated with those works that have gained the status of classics (the main theme is dormant primitive urges), it exudes a simple charm all its own.  If readers meet the book on its own terms—that of a good story meant purely to be enjoyed—they should find it a pleasurable way to pass an afternoon.

Published: 1903


2 thoughts on “The Call of the Wild by Jack London

    • Krysta says:

      I’m afraid it’s been many years since I’ve read White Fang, so I can’t really comment on which I prefer. I used to like both a lot, though, so I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to reread The Call of the Wild.


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