The Call of the Wild is the first best-selling book of Jack London, and it is also one of the most popular novels of America in twentieth century. This is a famous literary work of the author and although it only has a simple plot, it is still seen as a model of American literature. In the novel, we can see the characteristic of Jack London’s work everywhere, that is Naturalism and Darwinian’s point of view on
Evolution Theory. The main character of the book is a dog named Buck who left the pampered living environment because of an accident and was sold to the harsh environment of the north as a sled dog. In this process, Buck experienced a dual change both in physical and psychological, and finally he returnd to nature. This essay will focus on analyzing the writing characteristics in The Call of the Wild and
combining with the particular plot in order to understand the author’s thinking. In
other words, this essay will demonstrate Jack London’s believe in naturalism, genetics
and evolution though the experience of Buck.
Key words: The Call of the Wild, Naturalism, Evolution Theory
The Writing Characteristics of The Call of the Wild
Synopsis of the story
The Call of the Wild is a novel which was written by American writer Jack
London. I read this book when I was a pupil and even today, the book still impresses me greatly. As an adventure novel about animal, The Call of the Wild is one of the
classical works in the history of American literature. It is also known as "the world's most read American novel."
In the book, the author uses a special view that the main character of this novel is a large mongrel dog named Buck. He used to live a carefree life with a judge’s family
in California and he enjoyed his civilized life with the occasional nature stroll or hunting trip. But, he was stole by a gardener and sold on the black market to pay for a gambling debt. Then he was given to a saloon-keeper and transported via train to the Northland. In the long way Buck suffers a lot, through out the ordeal, He is kept in a cage and becomes increasingly angry. He manages to badly bite one of his kidnappers. Finally, he arrives at his destination. He has been taken to the Klondike to become a sled dog. In order to live, Buck must toughen up and learn the harsher rules of survival in the North. The first thing he should know is how to deal with being harnessed in the same team as a dog that wants to kill him. Buck, along with Dave and Curly, two other dogs, is sold to Francois and Perrault, two agents of the Canadian government. They must bring the mail between Skaquay and Dawson, Alaska. While in camp, Curly is killed for trying to make friendly advances to another husky. Buck understands that this is the law of club and fang which dominates this new world. He resolves never to go down in that manner. Thanks to his human-like tendencies, intelligence, strength and dignity, Buck quickly adapt to his new life. Besides, in this process, Buck learns fast from the other dogs. At the same time he starts to become more wild, losing the leisurely attitude towards life which imposed upon him in the Judge's home. Also, the relationship between he and the leading dog Spitz become more tense. Buck is ready to be a leader and he is prepared to take place of Spitz. One night Buck reaches his goal. But even the toughest dog can be worn down by constant work, and after 3,000 miles of pulling sleds, Buck nears to wear out. Then he is cast away as no longer useful, Buck is acquired by greenhorns whose inexperience nearly kills him, but after being saved by John Thornton, he at last finds a person he can love. Under John's influence, comforted by his two other dogs Skeet and Nig, Buck begins to heal. He accomplishes a number of miraculous things for John, saving his life twice and winning a bet that allows him to pay off all his debts. He does not forget his visions of the primitive world, but he is glad to stay with John. However, the happy time does not last long, Buck caught in a contradiction. His instincts and wild tendencies fight against his deep love to John. Until one day Buck returns to the camp to find everyone killed by the Yeehats, a Native American tribe.
He fall into a deep sorrow and raging at the death of John, and kills all the men who do not run away from him. With no more tie to mankind, Buck finally returns to the forest and remains with a pack of wolves. Each year he visits to the valley where John Thornton died, mourning his lost, dearest friend.
American Naturalism is evolved from realism when the author’s tone in writing becomes less serious and less sympathetic but more ironic and more pessimistic.It is no more than a glooym philosophical approch to reality, or to human existence.
As we all know, Jake is a writter advocating Naturalism. In the late 19th century, a notable feature of American cultural life is to pursue the contemporary French literature. Zola's many works have been translated into English and widely spread. The writting characteristics of Jack London was also deeply affected by zola. Jack was opposed to provide excessive detail and personal feelings in the novels because he thought that they would destroy the fluency and integrity of his novels. Therefore, in The Call of the Wild, although the content is Informative, it has litter description about the detail. And what’s more, in this novel Jake describes of a lot of painful and horrorable scene, but his writting characteristics are very objective. For instance, when he writes the scene that Buck was badly beaten by the red, Jack shows no sympathy or compassion in his words. He does not focus on Buck’s pain but pay more attention on the torture the man in red made on Buck and Buck’s reaction. Another
example is Buck’s love to John, the nature of Buck makes Jack feel that it doesn’t necessary to make many romantic description. He objectly shows Buck’s loyalty towards John, such as Buck tried to jump though the canyon or dragged the sled carrying one thousand pounds of flour. When writing these events, Jack abandoned his personal feelings. In the novel, Jack also depicts a lot of cruelty from human beings, which display his hatred. He believes that the best way to reveal these cruelty is to correctly describe them with no emotion.
Apart from the influence of Naturalism, Jake’s creative idea about novels was deeply affected by Darwin and Spencer, he was convinced of the importance of genetic and family background. The Call of the Wild fully shows this creative thinking.
Nevertheless, this belief on him was weaken by his love of mankind and his condemnation of the cruelty. The impact of environment and heredity, the opinion about natural selection and survival of the fittest seem very significant in The Call of
the Wild. In the novel Jack dramatically shows Buck’s change in the performance that a dog once lived in civilized environment turned back to uncivilized natural environment. This change includes the transformation of environment – varying from
the confortable civilized environment to the uncivilized environment, in which only exists kill and been killed. Before Buck was stole, he lived in the judge's manor, living an enjoyable life. However, after he was sold to be a sled dog, he lost the original protection and the first thing he must bear is hungry and thirty. Then Buck met the
man in red who gave Buck the first lesson in this brutal world. In the past, Buck was never been beaten, but now everything is totally different, he was beaten by the sticks again and again. Strong as he is, Buck still has no method to resist and after been beaten unconscioiusly, He learns the fact that people with sticks is the one he must obey. Having seen the other dog’s death, Buck get a futher understanding that in this
world, only obey or die. Buck is a survivor. Though he was beaten, the spirit and courage of him did not been destroyed. Another example happened on a beach, when a friend of Buck, Keli was beaten to death for he was trying to make friends with huskies. From this accident, Buck learns the truth that it is the survival of the fittest, if you fall, then you finish. With this belief in mind, Buck learns to steal the first tine in his life and this action is also a symbol that he adapts to the terrible living environment in the North. Without this suitability, the only ending is death. To steal means the origional morality of Buck has changed as well. In this crude situation, how to live is the most basic thing, others are all useless. For long staying in such environment, Buck resumes his killing nature in the genetic. In the chapter that Buck kills the rabbit, Jake shows a totally mature dog.
When Buck finds that he has resumed his natural character, he meets his new owner – John, with whom Buck feels a much easier life. However, Buck is no longer he used to be, because he has acknowledged from this crude world that he could never give up his advantage and never be sympathy to anything else. These understandings ordain the meeting with John is just an accident in Buck’s life, the wild characteristic calls on him all the time until he turns back to the palce where his ancestor once lived and become a part of the nature.
Using materials in reality is a typical characteristic in The Call of the Wild. In the
novel Jack continues a consistent criticism of social reality, but he did not make a direct criticism of social problems at that time though the characters and the dog in the novel. He uses the “Gold Rush” in 1897 as the background and makes a dramatic
description of the “Gold Rush” people on the Klondike region. Except the judge, representatives in Klondike are divided into four parts as Buck’s owner in his new life. The first two are the fair and honest postmen of the government Francois and Perot; the second is the “Scottish half-breed” responsible for postal traffic. He and his friend treat Buck in fair as well. Although the Although the environment is harsh they respect Buck, and try not to let him bear too much pain. Yet, the last two parts of Buck’s owners are totally different. The Willful, ignorance, greed and hypocrisy Mersey Meredith, Charles and Haier treat Buck badly, they represent the worst gold prospectors in northern city. The last one John is an ideal dog owner, he Concerns about the dog's life and regard it as his own child. Obviously, Jack could not reflect the whole all the most social reality in the view of a dog. At that time, Jack could only according to his own experience to criticize the terrible situation in North.
By analyzing the characteristics of The Call of the Wild, we could see the
characteristics of Jack London himself. Buck’s story has come to a pause but never
stopped. In Buck, Jack endows all of the cunning and savagery that he feels lurks not only in animal, but in human beings as well. Buck’s transformation from a “house
dog” to a ferociou animal is Jack’s attempt to argue his “survival of the fittest”
philosophy. The dog has the potential of the natural characteristics which Jack thought hidden in each one. However, Jack’s great love for animal and nature inspired him to
always write of the loyalty, affection, and excitement experienced by Buck. This adventurous, emotion-packed novel seems to capture all of qualities in a powerful way. The call from the wild is still hauting everyone’s heart. Buck, the main character
in the novel can also be anyone of us, howling for the natural characteristics.