The Call of the Wild


Plot Summary

When the novel opens, Buck is a pampered pet living on an estate in the Santa Clara Valley region of California.  His owner, Judge Miller, is kind and provides Buck with a good life.  However, Buck is half St. Bernard and half shepherd, and his size draws the attention of Manuel, a yard worker on the estate.  The Klondike gold rush creates a huge demand for dogs capable of pulling sleds, and Buck’s size places him in that category.  Manuel, a gambler with outstanding debts, steals Buck and sells him for a profit to pay off his gambling debts.  Dog traders purchase Buck and transport him north, where he will be transformed from a pet to a sled dog. 

The dog traders are brutal men who beat Buck with a club, which teaches him to obey, but also teaches him to fear and disrespect men.  Despite his experience with the dog traders, Buck still expects a certain level of civility, and is totally unprepared for the conditions he finds when he arrives in the Klondike.  Curly, a dog from his ship, is attacked by a pack of huskies when she gets off the boat; the dogs kills her, and the attack makes Buck even more wary of the Klondike.

Buck’s first owners are Francois and Perrault, French Canadian mail carriers who work for the Canadian government.   They are experienced sled drivers, and they quickly help Buck transform into a sled dog.  Part of Buck’s transformation is that he becomes wilder.  He begins to trust his instincts and becomes more wolf-like.  This transformation occurs alongside a developing rivalry with Spitz, who is the leader of the pack when Buck joins it.  Spitz is a fierce dog who is driven solely by the need to survive, and while Buck does not admire Spitz, one can see how his transformation makes him more like Spitz as the novel progresses.  Buck and Spitz have several fights, and Buck eventually kills Spitz and takes over leadership of the pack.  Under Buck’s leadership, the sled team excels.  However, Francois and Perrault give the dogs to...

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