(My Rating 5 / 5)
What a potent little book this is! With around twenty five percent of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette left to read, I needed a break from it and picked up The Call of the Wild from the windowsill in what used to be my bedroom at my parents’ home, where it has been sitting for many, many years!
Buck, a tame and rather large dog, of St. Bernard and shepherd dog lineage is dog-napped from his comfortable dwellings at a large home in the Santa Clara Valley and sold as a sled dog.
Thrust from a mundane and lazy life into a brutal world, the story revolves around how Buck fights to survive in a situation that is alien to him. He also finds himself irresistibly drawn to the wilderness – the life from which his ancestors descended.
London brilliantly brings out what it means to survive and how primitive instincts rise to the surface when faced with extreme situations.
Jack London obviously loves dogs and understands their nature very well, but while the book is about a dog and primitive, basic, animal survival instincts, I felt there is much in these revelations that can be applied to human beings as well.
For example, after Buck learns to thieve food, we are told:
“The first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked this adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death. It marked, further, the decay or going to pieces of his moral nature, a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. It was all well enough in the Southland, under the law of love and fellowship, to respect private property and personal feelings; but in Northland, under the law of club and fang, whoso took such things into account was a fool, and insofar as he observed them he would fail to prosper.”
How many times have history and personal experience shown us the same characteristics in human behaviour, when someone’s back has been against the wall and the person has had nothing left to lose?
I also saw the same mirroring of human nature when Buck is faced with having to choose between what he was ‘born to do’ and his loyalties.
Just the fact that London conceived of such a book left me in awe. I thought it was quite clever; and yet the story is a simple one. He spent around a year in the Yukon, gathering material for the book, which is set during the time of the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890’s.
While The Call of the Wild is about a domesticated dog that is thrust into life in the wilderness, London’s book White Fang, also written against the backdrop of the Klondike Gold Rush and which I am now eager to read, is about the opposite scenario – a wild dog being domesticated.
I’m now up to Book 12 of my 2016 Reading Challenge and am quite pleased with the progress.
Here are some of my other recent book reviews: