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Chapter Six - Part One

John Thornton happens to meet Buck's team because he had frozen his feet the previous December. His friends had gotten him comfortable, had gone on to Dawson, and had promised to come back for him in the spring. His feet have almost healed when he meets Buck, and with the warm weather finally setting in, his limp is almost all the way gone. Buck, too, is regaining his strength, deriving energy from the reviving life around him. Having pulled a sled for over three thousand miles, Buck allows himself a degree of laziness as his body heals. Slowly, his muscle reappear, his flesh pads out his body, and his wounds heal. Buck, however, is not alone in his loafing. John Thornton lazily takes in the sunshine while waiting for his friends to come back from Dawson and get him, and two other dogs, Skeet and Nig, laze about as well. Skeet is an Irish setter who helps nurse Buck to health, caring for his wounds in an almost motherly manner. Nig, a big black dog, is just as friendly, with a good nature and laughing eyes.
Buck is surprised to find that neither of the dogs are jealous of him, that they play with him, and share their kind master with him. Thornton joins the animals in the games, and it is in this manner that Buck moves from his former state into a whole new life. He experiences love, real love, for the first time. He had never had this kind of love while at the Judge's, where he had been a hunting companion, a playmate, and a friend. Love this strong, however, could only have been inspired by John Thornton. He had saved Buck's life. More than that, however, he is an ideal master. He treats his animals like children, and delights in sitting down for long talks with them. He often takes Buck's face in his hands, holds it close to his own face, and murmurs soft, but ill, words to the dog, words Buck takes as words of love. Buck knows nothing more of love than whips and roughness, so he takes Thornton's actions as signs of true love. He knows no greater joy. He is alert again, vibrant, knowing. Thornton is amazed at the dog, observing, "God! You can all but speak!"
Buck has the tendency to show his love in an almost hurting manner, to take Thornton's hand in his mouth and bite down with a fierce intensity. Just as Buck took the man's ill words as words of love, however, Thornton realizes that this harmless bite is Buck's expression of love. For the most part, though, Buck's love is shown as adoration. Unlike the other dogs, he is content to gaze at the man, loving him, from a distance. For hours, he stares at the man, taking in the details of his face, studying the subtleties of his movements. At times, Buck's staring is so intense that it draws Thornton's head around, and he is as moved by Buck as the dog is by him.

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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