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Plot Summary

The Call of the Wild is the story of Buck, the son of a St. Bernard and a Scotch Shepherd dog, taken from his home in California to the untamed land of Alaska where he answers the call of the wild, as he grows to accentuate the wild beast within him.

We first meet Buck as a companion to Judge Miller and his family in Santa Clara Valley, California. With the gold rush in the north, there is a demand for strong dogs that can lead sleds, and Buck is stolen from Judge Miller's estate and transported north for sale as a sled dog. It is this journey that the first changes emerge in Buck. Before being sold to Francois and Perrault, representatives of the Canadian government, to join their team in sledding across the north, he is broken by the man in the red sweater. Though the man teaches him his first lesson in the law of club and fang, Buck allows himself to be broken only physically. He will never allow man to break his spirit. From this time on, Buck is initiated into a new world. He sees his friend, Curly, brutally killed, himself is beaten by both man and fellow dog as he adapts to his surrounding. As he adapts, Buck finds that he has a tendency to lead the pack, and soon grows an adversary in the current dog team leader, Spitz. From the very start of their rivalry, it is obvious that it will inevitably end in the killing of either dog. After much struggle and competition, Buck finally kills Spitz and takes over the lead of the team.

After growing a respect for Francois and Perrault, Buck and his team are sold to Hal and his companions, Mercedes and Charles. Hal, although inexperienced and incompetent as a sledder, believes that he knows best despite the advice from other, more experienced, sledders. His sled is too heavy, and he pushes the dogs much too hard. He fails to bring enough food, and the dogs start to succumb to exhaustion and starvation. Through laziness and poor judgment, Hal runs his dog team to the point of death, at which time Buck collapses and feels he cannot go on. Hal inflicts blow after blow on the immobile dog, and puts Buck near death. The dog is finally saved by John Thornton, who takes Buck as his own. Hal and the team start off without Buck, and, as the team rounds the first corner, they fall through a patch of thin ice and die.

After John Thornton's heroic and loving effort to save Buck's life, the animal grows a unique love and companionship with the man, a feeling that Buck had never before experienced. The two grow a relationship based on trust and love, and go to great lengths to demonstrate this intense bond. Buck saves John Thornton's life on two occasions, and their relationship grows only stronger. After winning a bet from the demonstration of Buck's strength, Thornton has the money to search for a long lost gold mine. Although he does not find the mine, he does stumble across a Valley rich in gold. After spending over a year in the valley, Buck learns to explore the area, and at the same time exploring his own beast within. He stumbles across a wolf, who he views as a 'wild brother'. Although yearning to run into the wild with his new found 'brother' Buck still feels the pull to return to his master and friend, John Thornton. Despite being compelled to return to his master, Buck learns to love the taste of blood and the hunt for a kill. Buck hunts down both a bear and a moose, while the call pulling Buck to the wild intensifies each day.

While away exploring for several days, Thornton, his companions, and his dog team are killed by Yeehats, the local native tribe. Buck returns to find his beloved master dead, and the beast inside overwhelms him. In vengeance, Buck retaliates, killing a number of the Yeehats, and starting the legend of a 'ghost wolf' amongst the Indians. Buck finds his wild brother, and joins a band of wolves. He lives amongst them as their leader, and visits Thornton's final resting place often. He has fully responded to the call of the wild, and uncovered the beast within.

More important than the actual events of the novel is Buck's gradual transition from pampered housedog to powerful sled dog to wild beast. Throughout the book, Buck hears a howling from the woods, or sees visions of his ancestors in his sleep. He looks into the campfire and sees back generations, to the wild dogs who were his ancestors, and the ancient, hairy men who were their masters. He recognizes the continuity of their lives, the thread that connects them. Something within him longs to return to the state that these ancestors lived in, to answer the call of the wild. As the novel progresses, he gives into this call more and more often, and to a greater extent. He experiences physical changes, such as the hardening of his muscles, and emotional changes, such as the desire to join his wild brother, and the distaste for his former life in the Santa Clara Valley. At one point in the work, Buck leans his head back and gives a long, low wolf howl. It excites him like nothing he has ever felt, and expresses the inevitability of his transition to wild beast. When Buck finally gives in to the call permanently, there is a sense that Buck has achieved the destiny that he was meant for, and that his primitive life will give him a happiness that he has never before experienced.

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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