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Call of the Wild Summary by Jack Londan
Call of the Wild by Jack Londan About the Author
Born : John Griffith Chaney
January 12,1876 San Francisco, California, U.S.
Occupation : Novelist, Journalist, short storywriter and essayist
Literary movement : Realism, Naturalism
Died : November 22,1916 (aged 40) Glen Ellen, California, (U.S.)
John Griffith “Jack” London was born on January 12, 1876. Jack London was an American novelist, journalist, social-activist and short-story writer, whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival. He was the highest paid and the most popular of all living writers. Because of early financial difficulties, he was largely self educated past grammar school.
London spent time in the Klondike during the Gold Rush. His first work was published in 1898. From there he went on to write such American classics as Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf, and White Fang. London was a boxing fan and an avid amateur boxer. “A Piece of Steak” is a tale about a match between older and younger boxers. It contrasts the differing experiences of youth and age but also raises the social question of the treatment of aging workers. Several of London’s stories would today be classified as science fiction.
“The Unparalleled Invasion” describes germ warfare against China; “Goliath” is about an irresistible energy weapon; “The Shadow and the Flash” is a tale about two brothers who take different routes to achieving invisibility; “A Relic of the Pliocene” is a tale about an encounter of a modern-day man with a mammoth. “The Red One” is a late story from a period when London was intrigued by the theories of the psychiatrist and writer, Jung. It tells of an island tribe held in thrall by an extraterrestrial object.
Some nineteen original collections of short stories were published during London’s brief life or shortly after his death. There have been several posthumous anthologies drawn from this pool of stories. Many of these stories were located in the Klondike and the Pacific. A collection of Jack London’s San Francisco Stories was published in October 2010, by Sydney Samizdat Press.
London’s “strength of utterance” is at its height in his stories, and they are painstakingly well-constructed. “To Build a Fire” is the best known of all his stories. In The Youth’s Companion in 1902, London offered a second, more severe take on the man’s predicament in “The Century Magazine” in 1908. Reading both, provides in illustration of London’s growth and maturation as a writer. As Labor (1994) observes. “To compare the two versions is itself an instructive lesson in what distinguished a great work of literary art from a good children’s story”. London’s most famous novels are “The Call of the Wild”, “White Fang”, “The Sea-Wolf”, “The Iron Heel”, and “Martin Eden”.
In a letter dated Dec 27, 1901, London’s Macmillan publisher George Platt Brett Sr. said, “He believed Jack’s fiction, represented ‘the very best kind of work’, done in America.” Jack London was an uncomfortable novelist, who forms too long for his natural impatience and the quickness of his mind. His novels, even the best of them, are hugely flawed.
Some critics have said that his novels are episodic and resemble linked short stories. “The Star Rover”, the magnificent experiment, is actually a series of short stories connected by a unifying device. London died on November 22, 1916, sleeping in the porch in a cottage on his arch. London had been a robust man but had suffered several serious illnesses. At the time of his death, he suffered from dysentery, late-stage alcoholism, and uremia; he was in extreme pain and taking morphine. London’s ashes were buried on his property not far from the Wolf House.
London’s funeral took place on November 26,1916, attended only by close friends, relatives, and workers of the property. In accordance with his wishes, he was cremated and buried next to some pioneer children, under a rock that belonged to the Wolf House. After Chairman’s death in 1955, she was also cremated and then buried with her husband in the same simple spot that her husband chose. The grave is marked by a mossy boulder and the property was later preserved as Jack London Slate Historic Park, in Glen Ellen, California.
Call of the Wild Summary Introduction of the Novel
- Call of the Wild Chapter 1 Summary
- Call of the Wild Chapter 2 Summary
- Call of the Wild Chapter 3 Summary
- Call of the Wild Chapter 4 Summary
- Call of the Wild Chapter 5 Summary
- Call of the Wild Chapter 6 Summary
- Call of the Wild Chapter 7 Summary
The Call of the Wild is a short adventure novel by Jack London, published in 1903, and set in Yukon, Canada, during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The central character of the novel is a dog named Buck. The story opens at a ranch in Santa Clara Valley, California, when Buck is stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. He becomes progressively feral in the harsh environment, where he is forced to fight to survive and dominate other dogs. By the end, he sheds the veneer of civilization, and relies on primordial instinct and learned experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.
London spent almost a year in the Yukon, and his observations form much of the material for the/his book. The story was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, in the summer of 1903, and was published a month later in book form. The book’s great popularity and success made a reputation for London. As early as 1935, the story was adapted to film, and there has since been several more cinematic adaptations.
Call of the Wild Summary Important Characters
Buck : The protagonist of our story, Buck is part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd. At the beginning of the story, Buck is a domesticated, but a typical dog who lives in the home of Judge Miller in California. After being kidnapped and taken to Alaska to become a sled-dog, Buck’s wild nature is reawakened, and he slowly returns to the ways of his ancestors.
Spitz : An experienced and clever Husky, Spitz is the original lead dog of Buck’s dogsled team. He fears and hates Buck, whom he sees as a rival. He is eventually killed by Buck in a fight for leadership.
Curly : A sweet Newfoundland dog, one of Buck’s first companions after he has been kidnapped. She is unexpectedly killed for trying to make friendly advances towards another dog.
Dave : Another one of Buck’s first companions, he is one of the most knowledgeable dogs on the team. Mostly aloof, new life springs into him the moment he is placed in harshness. Not only does he help teach Buck the procedures, he also embodies pride in his work.
Sol-leks : Another member of the team. Like Dave, he is aloof until attached to sled. At first only wary of being approached on his blind-slide, poor treatment makes Sol-Leks more and more unfriendly.
Billie: Another member of the team. He is good-natured and sweet, and shows Buck how to make a bed in snow. He is killed by Hal.
Joe : Another member of the team, Billie’s brother. Unlike Billie, Joe is always snarling and defensive.
Pike: Another member of the team, referred to as “He rarely gets up on time, and he will steal food and undermine the expedition”. When Buck becomes the leader, he forces Pike to shape up and become member of the team.
Dub : Another member of the team. He is an awkward blunderer who gets blamed for Buck’s thievery.
Dolly: Another member of the team, Dolly goes mad after being bitten by wild huskies, tries to attack Buck, and is killed by Francois.
Skeet: A motherly Irish setter who belongs to John Thornton. She nurses Buck through his recovery and engages him in play.
Nig : A huge black dog who belongs to John Thornton. He has laughing eyes and a good nature.
Lone Wolf: The “wild brother” that Buck meets in the forest. He understands Buck’s wild nature.
Judge Miller: Buck’s original owner. He is presumably a sedate and prosperous man with a large family.
Manuel: The gardener’s helper on Judge Miller’s estate. He kidnaps and sells Buck to fund his gambling habit.
Red sweater : Also known as the man with the club. He metes out discipline to all dogs that will be sold for . sledding. Ruthless in his repeated beatings of unruly creatures such as Buck, he maintains composure and control. He does not beat out of cruelty, it seems. Rather, he looks to teach these dogs the lessons that will allow them to survive in his harsh environment. Buck never forgets the law of the club.
Francois : A Canadian Frenchman, the original dogsled driver. He is knowledgeable and has understanding of . his dogs, but still very strict.
Perrault: Francois’ superior and an agent of the Canadian government. He is admired by Buck for his fearlessness in blazing their trail, disregarding the threat of ice that might break.
Hal : A young man of nineteen or twenty who purchases Buck and his team once they have used up their usefulness to the government. He has ambitions to find gold, but his incompetence and laziness are out of place in the harsh environment. He has no understanding of the dogs, and mistreats them terribly.
Charles : Hal’s brother-in-law, a weak figure who does not say much. He basically follows Hal around and does what he is told.
Mercedes : Sister of Hal, wife of Charles. She is exceedingly self-centered, and spends most of her time crying and complaining.
John Thornton : The man who rescues Buck from Hal’s cruelty. He is by far the most admirable human character in the story, kind but full of the uncompromising strength that is necessary to survive on the trail. John is the ideal master because his nature is so dog-like.
Pete : One of John Thornton’s partners.
Hans : One of John Thornton’s partners.
“Black” Burton : A notorious troublemaker, he picks a fight in a bar and John Thornton steps in.
Matthewson : The man who bets John that Buck cannot pull a ton of weight.
Jim O’Brien : The man who loans John the money to make the bet against Mathewson.
Yeehats : The group of Valley Indians that raids the camp of John Thornton and his companions and kills them. They are terrorized when Buck returns and kills most of them. From then on, they speak of a dog inhabited by the devil that roams the forest.
Call of the Wild Chapter Wise Summary
Call of the Wild Chapter 1 Summary
The story begins in the fall of 1897, at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush. Buck is a large, four year old, one- hundred and forty pound dog, who lives on a ranch owned by Judge Miller in Santa Clara, California, some forty miles south of San Fransciso. Buck, is part St. Bernard and part Scotch Shepherd.
Unlike the other smaller dogs on the ranch, Buck is allowed to roam over the entire property. He goes into the swimming tank, hunts with the Judge’s sons, and escorts the Judge’s daughters on their morning walks. In winter he lies at the feet of Judge in front of the fire in the library. He is like a king who lords it over all the other creatures, and is treated with respect by everyone.
One night, when no one is around, a gardner takes Buck on a walk with a rope on his neck and sells him to a strange man. Buck growls, and is surprised when the man tightens the rope and chokes him. This is the first time Buck has ever been treated badly. He bites the man’s hand, but can’t get away. Buck is put on a train to Seattle with nothing to eat or drink. He’s angry about how he’s being treated.
In the morning, four men come to pick up the crate. They amuse themselves by poking sticks at him. Buck is conveyed to a railway depot, where he is placed in an express car. He stays there for two days and nights, during which he neither eats nor drinks. He is bundled off the train at Seattle, where a man in a red sweater takes charge of him. The man lets Buck out the cage, and Buck attacks him in fury, but the man brutally beats him into submission with a club. Buck is beaten but his spirit is not broken. In the days that follow, more dogs arrive. One day a man named Perrault buys Buck for $300. He can see that Buck is special.
He also buys another dog, Curly, and they all travel by boat with a man named Francois, and two other dogs.
The dogs are turned over to Francois, a swarthy French-Canadian. Buck learns to respect both men, since they are calm and fair. There are two other dogs on the ship, a big dog from Spitzbergen, and a gloomy one named Dave. ‘ Buck encounters snow for the first time.
Call of the Wild Chapter 2 Summary
On Buck’s first day on the Dyea beach, he understands that he has been taken from civilization into a wild, primitive place. Buck’s travelling companion, named Curly, is killed simply for trying to make friendly advances towards a husky dog only half her size. The rest of the dogs in the camp attack and kill Curly when she does not rise. Buck realizes that to survive in this world, he should never go down in a fight. Buck hates Spitz as the latter is a dominating dog.
Francois ties Buck into a harness and sets him to work. Buck has seen horses performing such labour before. He tries his best, responding to Francois’s whip and the nips of Dave. Buck learns quickly and makes good progress. ‘ He learns to stop at “ho” and to move at “mush,” and how to turn and move downhill.
Two more dogs, Billie and Joe, are added to the team. They are both huskies and are brothers. Billie is excessively good-natured, while Joe is sour. Soon another husky, Sol-leks, arrives. He is an old husky with one eye, and he does not like to be approached from his blind side. Buck accidently approaches him from that side once and gets his shoulder slashed. He learns quickly not to repeat the mistake.
That night, Buck had trouble finding a place to sleep. After wandering around the camp, he comes across Billie buried in the snow and proceeds to make his own hole and fall asleep instantly. When he awakes, he forces his way out of the snow. Perrault and Francois are very glad to have Buck. Every night in the camp, Buck is exhausted. He is bigger than the other dogs, and though he receives a larger ration, he never feels satisfied.
He imitates Pike, a new dog, by stealing a whole chunk of bacon and another weaker dog is punished in his place. Buck is placed between Dave and Solleks to receive instruction from them. He also learns to steal; his old morals, learned in Judge Miller’s sunny home, gradually slip away. Old urges and instincts, which belonged to his wild ancestors, begin to assert themselves.
Call of the Wild Chapter 3 Summary
At the beginning of Chapter 3, Buck is tough but quiet and does not start fights. One night, Buck settles down under the shelter of a rock, but when he goes to get his food, he finds the space occupied by Spitz. To everyone’s surprise, Buck becomes furious and he fights Spitz. Just then, they hear Perrault shouting and see almost 80-100 starving huskies charging into the camp.
Perrault and Francois fight them off with clubs, and some of Buck’s teammates get hurt. Buck is attacked by three huskies at once, and his head and shoulder are slashed; Spitz continues to nip at him. Some of the dogs fall through the ice but get pulled out.
Dolly, one of the dogs, goes mad one morning and begins chasing Buck. Francois kills the mad dog with an axe, and Buck is left exhausted from running. Spitz jumps at Buck. Francois punishes Spitz, but from then on, Spitz and Buck are at war. Francois and Perrault realize it, with Francois betting on Buck and Perrault on Spitz. It happens one day when a rabbit runs by the camp.
The whole team of dogs and fifty other dogs from a nearby camp start chasing the rabbit, with Buck in the lead. Spitz finds a shortcut and kills the rabbit, and Buck attacks Spitz. The other dogs wait to see who falls first. Spitz was an experienced and smart fighter, but Buck uses imagination, instinct, and his head. In the end Buck kills Spitz.
Call of the Wild Chapter 4 Summary
The next morning, Francois discovers Spitz missing and Buck covered with wounds. As the dogs are about to be harnessed, Buck trots up to spot that Spitz occupied. Francois brings Sol-leks to the position of leader instead. Buck is furious and springs upon him. He will not let Francois harness the team. But Francois drags Buck away by the scruff of the neck. Sol-leks does not mind giving up the position, but Francois comes back with the club. Buck retreats but then refuses to take his old position. Francois realizes, that he thinks that he has earned the lead position and will be satisfied with nothing less. Buck trots to the lead position and is harnessed in.
Buck forces Pike to carry his share of the load, and he soundly punishes Joe for his bad behaviour. After receiving their orders, Francois and Perrault leave the team in the care of officials, a “Scotch half-breed,” and pass out of Buck’s life for good. The dogs are tired when they reach Dawson, but they are allowed little rest and are soon on their way out with another load. They are treated well, attended to even before the men.
Dave, one of the dogs, becomes terribly ill, but refuses to stop pulling behind the sled. The driver puts sole in his place, meaning to allow him to run easily behind the sled. Dave cannot stand to see another dog doing his work. He runs into the soft snow beside Sol-leks, trying to resume his usual place, is yelping and again attempts to resume his place. Finally, the driver decides it is kinder to allow Dave to pull, for he will die either way. During his final pull, he often falls and is caught in the traces of the sled. The next morning, Dave is too weak to rise. The team is driven ahead some ways, but they cannot ignore the gunshot that rings out. Buck and everyone else know what the shot means.
Call of the Wild Chapter 5 Summary
After arriving at Skagway from Dawson for the second time, the dogs are in a wretched state. The journey took one month. Buck has lost twenty-five pounds in weight. Within four days, Buck and his mates are sold to Charles, a middle-aged man, and Hal, a man of about nineteen. Travelling with the men is Mercedes, who is Charles’s wife and Hal’s sister.
Buck’s new owners are incompetent, and overload the sled. The dogs are unable to move it. Hal calls them lazy and whips them, although Mercedes tries to persuade him not to. An onlooker suggests that Hal help the dogs by freeing the runners of the sled that are frozen in the snow.
When this is done, the dogs are able to pull the sled, but it is so badly loaded, it overturns. The owners reluctantly cut the load in half, and acquire six more dogs, making a total of fourteen. The newcomers, are not of much use, however, and nor does Buck have his heart in the work.
He knows he cannot depend on his new masters, because they do not know how to do anything.They are barely travelling ten miles a day, and it is inevitable they will run short on dog food. One of the dogs,Dub, is injured, and Hal shoots him. Six dogs die of starvation. As the going gets tougher, the three travellers fall to quarrelling.
Mercedes insists on riding on the sled, which adds intolerably to the load pulled by the weak and starving dogs. Hal, Charles and Mercedes are insensitive to the suffering of the animals. But the seven remaining dogs continue to pull the sled, despite their ill-treatment. One day Billie falls and cannot get up. Hal kills him with an axe and cuts him out of the traces. The team knows this fate approaches. The next day Koona goes, but the five remaining struggle on, despite their serious pains. The spring weather is beautiful, but no one can take notice of it.
The ice on the river is beginning to break up, but they manage to reach the camp of John Thornton at the mouth of White River. Thornton tells them to take no more chances on the melting ice. Hal refuses to take his advice and wants to continue. But he cannot persuade his exhausted dogs to get up, so he whips them until they begin to move. But Buck refuses. Hal takes up the club, but Buck will not move. He is too numb.
Thornton intervenes, striking Hal, and telling Hal he will kill him if he hits the dog again. Hal draws a knife, but Thornton knocks it out of his hand. Hal decides to make off without Buck. They pull out from the bank and start off down the river. After a quarter of a mile, the ice break up and the men and dogs are all drowned.
Call of the Wild Chapter 6 Summary
Having frozen his feet that past December, John Thornton walks a slight limp. Staying with Thornton during the spring, Buck’s strength is also restored. Buck’s muscles swell, and flesh returns to cover his bones. He makes friends with John Thornton’s other dogs, Skeet and Nig. They await the raft that will carry them to Dawson. Skeet is motherly and nurses Buck’s wounds during his convalescence. Nig is also quite friendly. The dogs manifest no jealously towards Buck. The kindness of John Thornton arises for them as well. Buck adores him, and goes wild with happiness when Thornton touches him or speaks to him.
He does not even like to lose sight of Thornton, however, Buck retains the wildness that has been growing in him since he was first kidnapped. If a strange dog appears, he fights fiercely, and always prevails. He never shows any mercy. He also hears the call of his wild nature, and apart from Thornton, he no longer has any ties to the human world. Later that year, a man named “Black” Burton, picks a quarrel with Thornton at a bar.
Burton hits him, and is immediately attacked by Buck. He barely escapes with his life, and as a result of his defense of his master, Buck gets a reputation through all the camps in Alaska. Again when John falls into the rapids of a river, Buck aids Hans and Pete in rescuing him and breaks three ribs. That winter, Buck’s fame spreads even farther throughout Alaska, when he wins a bet that Thornton makes in a bar.
The bet is that Buck can start a sled that weighs a thousand pounds. The test takes place in the street outside the bar, and Buck succeeds in his task, breaking the sled out of the ice and pulling it for one hundred yards. This feat of Buck wins sixteen hundred dollars for his master. A man then offers to Buck for twelve hundred dollars, but Thornton is not interested in selling Buck.
Call of the Wild Chapter 7 Summary
The money Buck wins for him enables Thornton to pay off some debts and journey with his partners in search of a fabled lost gold mine that no living man has ever found. They travel east on an unknown trail. Buck leads a team of six dogs 70 miles up the Yukon. Buck is very happy as they trek through the wilderness, fishing, hunting and unthinking of time.
For two years they wander, seeking an ancient cabin and a mythical mine. They never find the mine, but in the spring of the second year they find a “shallow place in a broad valley where the gold showed like yellow butter across the bottom of the washing-pan.”
With little work to do, Buck spends his days by the fire, dreaming once more of that ancient man. In his mind he wanders in this early, undefined world. Buck rightly hears an ancient call deep in the forest. Sometimes he searches for it, sometimes he hears it, springs from his place and runs wild through the forest. One night he hears it more clearly than ever before. He goes into the forest and sees a timber wolf. Wishing to make friends, Buck approaches; but the wolf is afraid of this beast three times his size and flees. Several times this meeting is repeated, until finally the wolf understands Buck’s intentions, and they sniff noses.
For two days he does not leave, but then he hears once more the call of the forest. He starts to wander in the woods, and stays away from the camp for days at a time, hunting and fishing for his food. He exhibits a wild, wolf-like cunning. As a fearsome hunter, he kills a moose by separating it from the herd and remorselessly pursuing and attacking it. He shows great patience and ferocity. It takes him four days to pull the moose down.
When he returns to Thornton’s camp, he finds it has been overrun by Yeehat Indians. The Yeehats are gleefully dancing. Three miles out he sees a fresh trail, and he becomes more cautious. Suddenly he comes across the body of Nig, an arrow sticking from his head. He passes the dog almost dead, and then he passes the body of Hans. He sees Yeehat Indians dancing around the wreckage of the camp.
Buck leaps at the Indians, ripping open the throat of the chief, and keeps killing until the rest of the tribe runs away in terror. For a few moments, Buck pursues them, killing a few more as they attempt to flee. Buck sees Pete’s body, and then he follows the scent to the lake, where he knows John Thornton’s body lies. Skeet, loyal to the end, lies dead just by the lake. Buck sits and contemplates the ache in his heart. He feels a bit better only when he looks at the bodies of the men he has killed. He realizes that men are no match for dogs without their arrows, clubs and spears.
For years Buck runs in the wild as a wolf. The Yeehats say a Ghost Dog that runs at the head of the pack, and they are afraid of him. They know he continues on occasion to kill human hunters. They do not enter the valley where he lives.