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The Call of the Wild

Characters

Hal, Charles, and Mercedes

Characters Hal, Charles, and Mercedes

These three can be analyzed in a group, because London never develops them beyond our initial impressions of them, which are strikingly similar: Hal and Charles are foolish and callow; Mercedes is spoiled and sentimental. Taken together, the trio serves as a vehicle through which London attacks the debilitating effects of human civilization and warns of how little use such civilization is in the wild. From their first appearance, Hal, Charles, and Mercedes are woefully out of place in the untamed North. Both Hal and Charles display “a callowness sheer and unutterable,” while Mercedes is spoiled and unreasonable—“it was her custom to be helpless,” London notes. As a group, the three have no experience in the wild, and, thus, they make mistake after mistake, overpacking the sled, allowing Mercedes to ride instead of walking, and miscalculating how much food they need for the journey to Dawson. When their mistakes become apparent, instead of taking action, they begin bickering and feuding, fighting over old grudges and trifles rather than dealing with the problems at hand.

The civilized world tolerates and even smiles on such absurdity, London suggests, but the wild has no such mercy. In the cold of the Klondike, incompetence is deadly, not only for the three foolish Americans but also for the team of dogs, for the humans’ poor planning has brought them to the brink of starvation. Hal, Charles, and Mercedes are weak and foolish figures, and their folly has its own reward—death in the icy waters of a northern river.