The Call of the Wild


Story Symbols and Themes

Symbols are those things in a novel that stand for something else.

The Club – The club is a symbol of man’s mastery over dogs, which has come at the expense of brutality.  Buck quickly learns that he cannot defeat a man armed with a club.  Repeatedly throughout the novel, the club stands as a symbol of brutality.  The man in the red sweater who beats Buck with the club does so without any real emotional attachment to the beating; he does it simply to inflict the brutality that will keep Buck from attacking him in the future.  This seems to be the trend for the men who use the club in the earlier part of the novel.  For example, neither Francois or Perrault, who both arm themselves with the club at times, are vicious or savage men; they simply use this tool to establish their dominance.  However, when one sees Hal’s use of the club and how he turns the weapon from a tool of dominance into a tool for pointless abuse, one sees the danger of unearned dominance.  In fact, the idea that one should have to earn the right to dominate and lead others is one that recurs throughout the novel, and the club is a shortcut that allows one to lead even if not qualified to do so.

Curly’s Death – In addition to being a horrific reminder that Buck is no longer a pampered pet on a gentle estate, Curly’s death is Buck’s first real introduction to the law of club and fang.  Watching his friend get killed for making a friendly overture to another dog, Buck realizes that he will not find friends among the Northland dogs.  That does not mean that he is determined to be enemies with these dogs.  On the contrary, he frequently works well with them and is able to lead them and prosper with them.  However, he always holds himself apart from them, never completely relaxing in their presence.  It is only when he becomes a companion of Thornton that Buck begins to relax and become less rigid.  He develops a true and genuine friendship with Thornton. ...

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Essays About The Call of the Wild