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.