I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Buck, a sturdy crossbreed canine (half St. Bernard, half Shepard), is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit...
First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is regarded as Jack London's masterpiece. Based on London's experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike.
***Wanda’s Summer Carnival of Children’s Literature***
Maybe I would have been more impressed with this book as a child or if I was a dog lover. It was waaaaay too anthropomorphic for my taste. Although I have no doubt that animals think and have feelings, I don’t believe that they experience the world exactly as people do. Buck exhibited far too many “thoughts” and was far more dependent on “reasoning” to be believable for me.
But, I do think that animals can learn and adapt to new circumstances and that part of Buck’s behaviour no doubt came from London’s observations of real dogs in real situations. And there’s no doubt that big powerful dogs like Buck can return to wild behaviours fairly easily. Likewise, I have watched a kennel of sled dogs, realizing that a sled will be leaving soon. The chaos that ensued as all the dogs in the kennel entreated to be one of the chosen was amazing. All those dogs wanted to run and they let their owner know it! So that desire to run and to work was highly realistic.
I was also struck by the romanticism of the novel. London portrayed the hardships of the frontier quite honestly, but at the same time made it seem much more desirable that I think it really was. John Thornton’s depiction I think idealizes the image of the tough, wise frontiersman, just as Buck is the ideal dog, tough, smart, and devoted to Thornton. Only Thornton’s death releases Buck from his last remaining ties to civilization.
The theme of the civilized vs. the primitive also permeates the novel, adding to its romantic nature. Somehow, the primitive condition is right for the dog, the civilized condition is better for the humans, unless they are particularly strong individuals. The three greenhorns who buy Buck and his sled team are weaker specimens, unable to survive outside their luxurious civilization and unable to listen to instruction. Their deaths are unlamented.
I’m surprised I didn’t read this as a child, but I must have been preoccupied with horsey literature. I do think that I would have been much more impressed with it back then.