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The Call of the Wild

Jack London

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full title  ·  The Call of the Wild

author  · Jack London

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Dog story; adventure story

language  · English

time and place written  ·  1903, California

date of first publication  · Serialized in The Saturday Evening Post, June 20–July 18, 1903

publisher  ·  The Saturday Evening Post

narrator  · Anonymous, speaking from a point in time after the events in the novel have taken place

point of view  · Buck’s point of view, for the most part; the novel also shifts briefly into John Thornton’s point of view during his wager involving Buck’s ability to pull a heavy sled

tone  · Sweeping, romantic, heroic

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · The late 1890s

setting (place)  · California, briefly; then Alaska and the Klondike region of Canada

protagonist  · Buck

major conflict  · Buck’s struggle against his masters and his development from a tame dog into a wild beast

rising action  · Buck’s battle with Spitz; Buck’s struggle with Hal, Charles, and Mercedes; Buck’s fulfillment of Thornton’s wager

climax  · John Thornton’s saving of Buck's life from Hal's cruelty

falling action  · Buck's time with Thornton, leading up to Thornton's death

themes  · The laws of civilization and of wilderness; the membership of the individual in the group; the power of instinct and ancestral memory; the struggle for mastery

motifs  · Fights to the death; visions

symbols  · Mercedes’ possessions symbolize the different meanings of objects in the civilized and uncivilized worlds; Buck’s traces symbolize, variously, his entrance into the wild, his superiority over the other animals, and, finally, his breaking free from the group. The club that breaks Buck in as a pack dog symbolizes the law of the uncivilized world; Curly’s death also symbolizes the break with civilization. Buck’s killing of the Yeehat Indians symbolizes his final abandonment of life as a tame animal.

foreshadowing  ·  The urges that Buck feels pulling him into the wild foreshadow his eventual transformation into a wild creature; the starving dogs who attack the team’s camp in Chapter III foreshadow the hunger that will afflict them during their ill-fated journey with Hal, Charles, and Mercedes.

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