Classic Remarks is a meme that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation. We look forward to seeing your responses!
Is the Ending of The Call of the Wild Positive?
Spoiler warning for the end of the novel! (Though that’s probably obvious….)
This is a tough question for me because I think the answer is entirely dependent on what one most values, and valid arguments could be made for both positions.
Buck faces a tough life and a large number of challenges throughout the novel, but by the end, he has found a truly good master, a friend. Various men had tried to beat the wildness and passion out of Buck, but Thornton is kind to him, and the two have a great relationship. Ultimately, however, Thornton still ties Busk to civilization, and one of the primary questions the book asks is “Is that tie to civilization good?”
The ending is at least a little sad because Thornton dies and Buck is left on his own. The narrator writes: “…He knew John Thornton was dead. It left a great void in him, somewhat akin to hunger, but a void which ached and ached, and which food could not fill.” Yet because of Thornton’s death, Buck is able to join a pack of wild wolves, and he appears to thrive. He becomes a prince among wolves, the head of a pack that the humans tell legends about: “They are afraid of this Ghost Dog, for it has cunning greater than they.”
So the question is really about whether you believe the “returning to the wild” is a positive or a negative. For Buck, it seems to work out. He seems to regain his “true nature,” to be able to develop a prowess his human masters often stunted in him. In that way, the ending seems decently positive to me. However, if the question is whether “returning to the wild” is good for all animals, or for humans (a question the book definitely raises in spite of the fact that the protagonist is a dog), the answer is probably more complex.
What do think? Link us to your post or tell us your answer in the comments!