The Call of the Wild
Jack London
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 4
Summary

François discovers that Spitz is missing and he praises Buck for his bravery after seeing his wounds, saying that he is two devils. He intends to place Sol-leks in the lead position but Buck retaliates furiously as he refuses to take any other position less than the lead. Even after being chased and having clubs thrown at him by both Perrault and François, he refuses to let Sol-leks lead. Finally, François places him in his desired position where he leads happily, and laughs (in a canine manner). Buck proves to be better than other dogs, including Spitz, by taking the duties of leadership effectively. He ensures that his teammates work as required, and the lazy ones — like Pike — begin to work harder than ever before. The team manages a record run by covering an average of forty miles each day in a span of fourteen days. 

Later, another man, only known as the Scotch Half-Breed, and his friend take charge of the dog sled in place of Perrault and François, who leave to work on other orders. The work becomes more difficult for the dogs as they pull heavy mail. They do not enjoy the work but they still perform as expected. Over time, the team becomes accustomed to the specific routine.

Buck likes lying by the fire and he thinks about different things including Judge Miller’s house, Curly’s death and the fight with Spitz. He also experiences some memories of his ancestors and the primitive ancient man scared by the dark.

One day, Dave becomes morose and irritable. His condition continues to deteriorate although he does not seem to have any injuries or broken bones. Despite his condition, he continues taking pride in the toil until he had no strength left in him, prompting the Scotch Half-Breed to go back and shoot him in the absence of the other dogs. 

Analysis

As previously observed, François has always praised and trusted Buck over Spitz. The author affirms this double standard after François realizes that Spitz is missing; instead of getting mad for losing a hardworking dog, he proceeds to acknowledge Buck — who believes that he deserves to be the leader after his victory. This explains his unwillingness to continue working in his old position or letting Sol-leks work as the lead dog. He never flees, but remains in the camp portraying his willingness to work — but only as the leader. François’ faith in Buck is seemingly lacking for he did not view him as the ideal leader. Nonetheless, Buck proves him wrong when he successfully takes up the role and performs beyond expectations. 

The new work, under the new masters, shows how the dogs are able to operate under any domination. Although the work is difficult, they perform well for they take pride in the work they do — while also having become comfortable with the toiling life. As Buck ponders about his life, it becomes apparent that he is aware of his past and acknowledges it as being important. The thought of ancient times and ancient man signifies his connection with his ancestry. Dave’s condition and his efforts to continue working portray his dedication in working as a sled dog — as it is the only life he knows. The Scotch Half-Breed later kills him, as he cannot let him continue suffering; he is useless if he is not part of the team. 

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