At the same time, however, one of the most valued traits in the wilderness is individualism. If The Call of the Wild is a story about ultimately achieving mastery over a foreign, primal world, that mastery is achieved only through separation from the group and independent survival. Throughout much of the story, Buck is serving a master or a pack; even as a leader he is carrying out someone else’s commands and is responsible for the well-being of the group. In many ways, then, when John Thornton cuts Buck free from his harness, he is also beginning the process of Buck’s separation from a pack mentality. Although Buck continues to serve Thornton, his yearnings for a solitary life in the wild eventually overcome him.

The balance between individual and group is disrupted once more, however, toward the end of the novel, when Buck becomes the leader of a wolf pack. Although the pack is much different from the dog pack whose responsibility was to serve humans by pulling sleds, the message seems to be that, while encouraging the skills to survive on one’s own, the wild ultimately requires the cooperation of a group in order to ensure individual survival.