Book reviews

I was keen to read The Call of the Wild by Jack London after recently reading White Fang while the first story was still fresh in my mind.

The Call of the Wild introduces Buck, a half shepherd, half St Bernard as the favoured companion of Judge Miller and his sons, and a playmate for the Judge’s grandchildren at their home in California.

When a gold rush created an enormous demand for dog sled teams to carry mail and essential supplies in the Yukon, Buck was stolen because of his great strength and taken to the other end of the continent by train.

Once in the Yukon, Buck learned to obey club-wielding men, and to fight for his food, working position and for his very life. Much like people, Buck’s fellow sled-dog’s characters were depicted as either living to work, or happy-go-lucky fun lovers, while others sought out every opportunity they could to fight.

The team’s masters came and went. Some were kinder to the dogs than others and several were cruel and incompetent. Eventually Buck ended up with a master he loved and would have died for, but eventually his master’s death and the call of the wild led him to run the countryside with wolves.

The story is short and is told in a similarly detached style to White Fang in that the animal’s morals and values are generally less emotional that that of humans, while their actions are more to the point. For example, if two dogs hated each other they fought to the death rather than politely detesting each other human-style.

The Call of the Wild can be enjoyed as a straightforward adventure story with moral lessons for those who care to recognise them, noting that the story is also a product of its time and contains racist comments and cruelty to animals.

White Fang and The Call of the Wild are companion pieces, set in the same place at the same time, but the characters do not cross over. The stories are opposite to each other in that White Fang tells the story of a wolfdog that becomes domesticated during the course of the story while the domesticated dog in The Call of the Wild goes wild. I didn’t prefer one story over the other.

The Call of the Wild was book twenty seven in my Classics Club challenge to read 50 classics before my challenge end date of August 26, 2023.

Comments on: "The Call of the Wild by Jack London" (7)

  1. I must read White Fang, Rose. Noting that you didn’t favour one over the other, did you like them? I felt great sympathy for Buck and found the cruelty hard to take. I’m glad it read it but I can’t say that as a book, I liked it.

    • No, I wouldn’t say that I liked either book, Sandra, although I feel as if I got something from both. I learned about the time, place and attitudes. In time to come I think I’ll most remember these books for the character’s detached emotions, or how these were simplified to kill or be killed.

  2. I remember reading a children’s version of the book when I was little and I didn’t like it, I’m sure I wouldn’t like it now either. I appreciate your review however, well done πŸ™‚

    • Thank you.
      I can’t imagine you liking this book any better as an adult if you didn’t like it as a child. I wouldn’t say that I liked either this or White Fang either, both were too brutal for my taste although I appreciated the writing style, particularly the animal’s lack of morals.

      • I’m sure there are some great qualities to it – or else it wouldn’t be known as a classic – but I can’t see myself ever reading it again! I did have a children’s adaptation of the book, which I read only once.

  3. I could probably make allowances for the racism given when it was written, but not for the animal cruelty. Not sure that I want to analyse that response too deeply…! πŸ˜‰

    • The cruelty towards animals seemed to be accepted by the animal characters as how things were in their world, just as they accepted that they did whatever they needed to in order to survive.

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