Spitz was the leader, likewise experienced, and while he could not always get at Buck, he growled sharp reproof now and again, or cunningly threw his weight in the traces to jerk Buck into the way he should go.
As Spitz runs at the front of the pack, he can’t physically get at every other dog on the team. However, as the narrator describes here, Spitz finds cunning ways of asserting his leadership and making his presence known. Spitz pulls at Buck in the back when he senses Buck is getting out of line. Readers are introduced to Spitz, the original leader of Francois’ dog team, early in the story.
So terrible was his appearance that Spitz was forced to forego disciplining him; but to cover his own discomfiture he turned upon the inoffensive and wailing Billee and drove him to the confines of the camp.
As leader of Francois’ dog team, Spitz is used to dominating other dogs and winning. When Perrault introduces Joe, a dog with a “malignant eye” and a fierce belligerence, however, even Spitz finds he needs to back down. Here, the narrator reveals how Spitz, feeling embarrassed of his response to Joe, takes out his aggression on Joe’s brother, Billee. Spitz may hold the position of leader, but he possesses a fragile ego.
On the other hand, possibly because he divined in Buck a dangerous rival, Spitz never lost an opportunity of showing his teeth. He even went out of his way to bully Buck, striving constantly to start the fight which could end only in the death of one or the other.
As explained by the narrator, Spitz’s leadership represents a type of “no holds barred” way of dominance, where he will fight at any cost simply to maintain his position. Spitz deliberately picks fights with Buck to let Buck know he is Buck’s superior. Unlike Buck, who possesses both ferocity and leadership skills, Spitz possesses only a fighting spirit and a driving desire to rule.
Spitz was equally willing. He was crying with sheer rage and eagerness as he circled back and forth for a chance to spring in.
After Buck challenges Spitz for taking his nest, Spitz seems more than ready to fight. Up until this point, Buck has tried to maintain a peaceful distance from Spitz, but when Spitz encroaches on his territory, Buck attacks. Here, the narrator makes clear that Spitz seems more than ready to fight; he relishes the opportunity. In the moments that follow, Spitz fights for his survival with all of his will and might.
Spitz was a practised fighter. From Spitzbergen through the Arctic, and across Canada and the Barrens, he had held his own with all manner of dogs and achieved mastery over them. Bitter rage was his, but never blind rage.
London carefully qualifies Spitz’s brute ferocity as being more than just a haphazard rage. Spitz possesses a will to power that makes him a master; indeed, Spitz has rightfully earned his place as master of Francois’ dog team. In this way, London creates an honorable match for Buck, so that when Buck defeats Spitz, Buck’s victory holds special significance.
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