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Chapter Five - Part Two

The next morning, Buck leads his weary team up the street, and bitterly recalls that this is his fifth trip along the particular stretch. His heart is just not in his work this time around, and he realizes that his dead-tired team is in no condition to take the trail, either. They are frightened and exhausted, and lack any confidence in their masters. In particular, Buck is worried about Hal, Charles, and Mercedes, as he realizes that not only do they know nothing about the trail, but that they will never learn. They lack discipline, they lack order; they take half the night to set up camp and half the morning to pack the sled. Even after spending hours packing the sled, the haphazard job cannot hold up for the entire day, and they have to stop frequently to rearrange the load. Some days they are unable to travel at all, and on the days on which they make it to the trail, they are lucky to go half the distance of any other team. It is inevitable that they are going to run out of food. Despite this fact, the masters take to overfeeding the team, and the new dogs, not used to the perpetual hunger of the arctic trail, have insatiable appetites. When the extra food fails to spur the tired dogs to a quicker pace, Charles and Hal double the daily rations. Mercedes worsens the problem by sneaking even more food to the dogs without the men's knowledge. Food, however, is not what the dogs need. It is rest that they need, and a break from the strenuous load that they are too tired to pull.
Soon, Hal realizes that half of the food is gone and they have only traveled a quarter of the distance. Thus begins the underfeeding. With food in short supply and nowhere to obtain any more, the masters cut rations in half and try to increase the daily distance traveled. The three masters know that they are in trouble, and that it is their own fault; it is impossible to get the dogs to travel farther when they are unable to get started until late in the morning. Incompetent in leading the dogs in the work of the trail, they cannot even handle the daily activities of working themselves.
The first dog to die is Dub, the dog with the injured shoulder blade. Despite his thievery and knack for getting caught and punished, he had been a good worker, and had faithfully performed his duties despite becoming sicker and weaker. Hal finally shoots the untreated, exhausted, and bone-weary animal. The Outside dogs are the next to go, as, like the legend says, they are unable to survive on half the ration of the husky. With seven dogs gone, the human masters begin to shed the manner of the civilized world they have left behind. The Artic has proved to be too harsh for them. Mercedes gives up crying over the dogs, and devotes all her tears to the bickering between she and the two men, a series of arguments that they never seem too tired to engage in. Their misery leads to irritability, which soon becomes so strong as to overwhelm everything else. They think only of their impatience, their aching hearts and muscles, and the sharp words that are the first things to escape their mouths in the morning, and the last thing to cross their lips each night. Each man in the family thinks he does more work than the other, and Mercedes is torn between her husband and her brother, resulting in a never-ending quarrel. Small exchanges escalate into large-scale fights, involving all three family members at hand, as well as aunts and brothers and cousins hundreds of miles away. Charles and his political views often take center stage, as do the flaws of his family, which Mercedes seem to think are numerous and glaring. Meanwhile, their fights keep them from pitching the tent, starting the fire, or packing the sled, which slows them even more, adding to their misery.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter One - Part One
Chapter One - Part Two
Chapter Two - Part One
Chapter Two - Part Two
Chapter Three - Part One
Chapter Three - Part Two
Chapter Four - Part One
Chapter Four - Part Two
Chapter Five - Part One
Chapter Five - Part Two
Chapter Five - Part Three
Chapter Five - Part Four
Chapter Six - Part One
Chapter Six - Part Two
Chapter Six - Part Three
Chapter Six - Part Four
Chapter Seven - Part One
Chapter Seven - Part Two
Chapter Seven - Part Three
Chapter Seven - Part Four



 






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