Jack London’s exploration of a dog’s life from being a pet to a sled dog to a ferocious beast in his short novel ‘The Call Of The Wild‘ is immensely intense and delightful. The story is set at the time when gold was discovered in ‘the frozen North’ and there was a great demand for the sled dogs as means of transportation in the Arctic. The protagonist of the novel is a half St. Bernard and half Scotch Shepherd dog named Buck who initially lived a life of ‘a sated aristocrat’ in Judge Miller’s house in Santa Clara Valley. But that was until the treacherous gardener
Manuel stole him and sold him to a couple of dog traders as a result of which Buck ended up as a part of a dog team. It is here that he learnt the rule of the club, knew about what it is to be part of a team and a pack; learnt how to work hard etc. It was for him the first initiative into the wild, the primitive, the instinctual and the uncivilized. He soon adapted to the harsh demands of being a sled dog and gradually there arose within him ‘stirrings of old instincts’ that made him intimately aware of his wild origins. From all the incessant brutality and cruelty of his world, Buck was fortunately rescued by the gentle yet strict John Thornton who nursed him back to health and to whom Buck became fiercely loyal. With him Buck had a curious relationship-one in which he allowed his primordial instincts to take over and he went hunting for days on at a stretch but always came back to Thornton and his camp. In the end however, the ‘call of the wild’ overwhelmed Buck and he soon plunged into the wild, the forests to meet his ancestral instincts raging within him.
‘The Call of the Wild‘ is like a bildungsroman of sorts as it traces the progress of Buck. It intricately shows his transformation, from a pet to a primitive ferocious beast. Jack London’s writing is gripping and fascinating. It takes the reader into the mind of Buck (similar was the case with his book, ‘White Fang’). London’s detailing is meticulous to say the least-every other aspect whether its Buck’s anatomy, his primeval thoughts, the cruelty meted out to him, the landscape-is rich in detail. The narrative is pretty straightforward and direct. It is visual, precise and to the point. It is a balanced mix of adventure, action, excitement as well as meditation and interiority. The narrative is replete with bursts of actions and adventure which is interspersed with Buck’s thoughts. The external occurrences are often the cause of Buck’s mental states through different stages of his life.
‘The Call of the Wild‘ is a short yet powerful and intense novel which is packed with intricate details and multifarious themes-loyalty of animals to man, the primitive instinctual nature of all creatures, the cruel treatment of animals by humans etc. The novel will undoubtedly be a compelling read as it has the pace of a thriller and the intensity of a period piece.