The Call of the Wild
The Necessities of Survival
A Demand for Respect
That day they made forty miles, the trail being packed; but the next day, and for many days to follow, they broke their own trail, worked harder, and made poorer time. [Chapter 2, the Call of the Wild, Jack London]
Like a blur going rapidly across the snowy trail in the white-coated backwoods of Canada, the group is led by a determined, stocky St. Bernard: a great leader and a loyal companion who turns heads and stands out from the rest of the pack as he glides almost effortlessly, pulling twice his weight in the traces. They call him Buck, a dog who demands respects and is not quick to give it. He will do whatever it takes to survive and nothing will obstruct his journey to success and leaderships. In the novel, The Call of the Wild, Buck learns how to earn the respect of others in order to protect himself, and how to do whatever it takes to survive.
Respect needs to be earned. Buckearns the respect of the other dogs in his team through a combination of intimidation and motivation. When he defeats his enemy Spitz, after a long and grueling battle to the death, the other dogs see him as the new leader and would never disobey him. After all, he had killed the dog they feared most. Even the men respected him. They had never seen anything like Buck, so determined and full of heart. In chapter 4, after Buck had become the lead dog and fronted the team ripping through the woods at a record-setting pace, Perrault and Francois noticed the surge of speed:
"Nevaire such a dog as dat Buck!" he cried. "No, nevaire! Heem worth one t'ousan' dollair, by Gar! Eh? Wot you say, Perrault? And Perrault nodded. He was ahead of the record then, and gaining day by day. The trail was in excellent condition, well packed and hard, and there was no new-fallen snow with which to contend. [The Call of the Wild, Chapter 4]
Buck was truly an impressive dog. Francois and Perrault had never seen anything like him. He could pull ten times his weight and motivate others to follow his example of hard work at the same time. He wasn’t going to let anything knock him off his path. Buck was an absolutely exceptional dog, with an ability to earn the respect of his teammates by acts of motivation and even acts of mischief.
Rules are in place for a reason and they are helpful; however, when survival is on the line, instincts kick in and rules get kicked out. Luckily for Buck, he learns this lesson early, an extra piece of stolen meat here and there could have been what kept him alive. Survival instincts are exactly what they sound like and they keep Buck alive in The Call of the Wild. Some of the dogs who didn’t figure this out as early as Buck paid with their lives in the face of a dozen ravenous, bloodthirsty huskies. At first, even Buck is quiet and reserved and he pays by losing his food, eating too slowly, and often going to sleep famished. One day he noticed a particularly mischievous dog named Pike, snag a piece of meat while Perrault and Francois had their backs turned. That’s when Buck realized he needed to take risks to help himself even at the expense of others:
When he saw Pike, one of the new dogs, a clever malingerer and thief, slyly steal a slice of bacon when Perrault's back was turned, he duplicated the performance the following day, getting away with the whole chunk... This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his 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. [Chapter 2, The Call of the Wild, Jack London]
Buck gets away with a whole slab of extra food, but he also earns the respect of the others. He shows that nobody should mess with him because he does what it takes to survive. It marked his ability to adapt and hold his own, the two most important rules of survival. One thing leads to another in survival. The ability to adapt and survive leads to respect, respect leads to leadership and success, which leads to happiness.
There is a lot of cruelty in Buck's world, and it’s the ability to find joy within it is truly hard to master. The Call of the Wild is a tough read, but the lessons I learned from this book could not have been delivered more perfectly by Jack London. This book should be read by all boys my age. London's incredible ability to paint a picture in a reader's head made me feel like I was watching Buck make his owner's jaws drop as he pulled a despicable weight on his back. I felt like I was there, watching him learn what it takes to survive while grabbing that big slab of meat. At the beginning I had trouble, as the language was unorthodox compared to easier books I am used to reading. Once I decided to start listening to the audio while I read, it all became easier. Not only did begin to more deeply understand the literature, but I could finish the assignments much quicker because I can be a slow reader, and I am definitely glad I found this solution. Writing the essay for this book was actually much easier than reading it. There are so many clear and profound themes to chose from. I felt as though I was adapting to a new type of book just as Buck was adapting to his new environment. This classic was worth reading. It taught me not to get intimidated by a book because every book can get better even if it takes a few chapters. I should never give up on a book.
This novel tells the story of a dog who demands respect and will do anything for survival; now he is right where he belongs—deep in the dark, snowy Canadian woods trotting around with his four-legged brothers. I may have been challenged by this detailed classic, but the lessons I learned were priceless.