The Call of the Wild
Jack London
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
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Chapter 1
Summary

Buck, a half–St. Bernard, half–Scotch Shepherd dog, lives in the home of Judge Miller, a wealthy man with a magnificent home found in Santa Clara Valley. He is unaware of the brewing trouble that faces “every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego”. The discovery of yellow metal in the Arctic necessitated the use of energetic dogs that would toil, and subsequently rely on their furry coats as protection from the immense coldness. As pointed out, Buck is a king in Judge Miller’s place, living freely and ruling everything in the home, including humans. 

It is the fall of 1897, and his troubles begin when he takes a stroll with Manuel, one of Judge Miller’s servants. He sells Buck to another man for a hundred dollars; that man, in turn, sells him for a hundred-and-fifty dollars to a saloonkeeper. His throat and tongue are significantly hurt from a rope placed around his neck by the undesirable acquaintance he regrets trusting. He is then transported for the next two days and nights, during which he receives nothing to drink or eat. Despite the hunger, he continues to nurse his wrath and wounded pride, waiting to attack his tormentors considering that the rope is removed. However, he meets a stout man, in a red sweater who hits him menacingly with a club every time he tries to attack — until he learns his place. The man later provides him with water and a generous meal, chunks of raw meat which he eats from the man’s hand. 

More dogs come, and Buck watches them as they undergo the domination he endured in the hands of the same man. He notices that strange men come in often and buy the dogs, and is always glad that he is not part of the selection every time. Nonetheless, his day finally comes, and gets sold at three hundred dollars to Perrault, a little weazened man who speaks broken English and many other strange languages. From there, he is transported on a vessel named Narwhal in the company of Curly, a good-natured Newfoundland, and two other dogs. With every passing day, he senses that the weather is getting colder. They later arrive in the Arctic, and Buck appears mesmerized by the snow after encountering it for the very first time. 

Analysis

Buck is a strong dog who lives happily in Judge Miller’s house. His immense freedom defines his position as the king. Unlike those residing in kennels, he roams freely within and beyond the compound. But just like any other dog, he has a natural tendency to be trusting and selectively identifies with the people he knows. For this reason, he ends up blindly trusting Manuel who leads him to misery and untold experiences. Being a strong, masculine dog with a hairy body makes him ideal for the intended toils in the North; he has the required strength and can thrive well under the freezing weather. However, it is such advantages that leads him to trouble. 

The interaction with the strangers he meets throughout the journey confirms his aggressive nature and distrust in strangers. However, the man in the red sweater appears to have adequate skills in breaking dogs, for he manages to calm Buck amid the wrath and anger. In turn, Buck gives in to the domination after realizing that he cannot outdo the man with the club — an indication of self-preservation and the acknowledgment of defeat. The journey on the Narwhal seems exciting for he is in the company — and the protection — of other dogs. The reaction he portrays, after stepping on snow for the very first time, indicates his innocence as a domesticated dog. 

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