full title The Call of the Wild
author Jack London
type of work Novel
genre Dog story; adventure story
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
setting (time) The late 1890s
setting (place) California, briefly; then Alaska and the Klondike region of Canada
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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