The Call of the Wild was written at the beginning of the twentieth century by Jack London. The short novel, set in Yukon, Canada during the Klondike Gold rush, was serialised in 1903. The book is written with a third person narrator and the narrative is focalised through a large dog named Buck.
Buck is stolen from his comfortable life in California and transported to Canada where he passes through the hands of various men. He is set to work as a part of a team of sledge dogs, travelling through forests and across frozen lakes between small settlements and towns.
I enjoyed this book, though ‘talking dogs’ might seem to be a childish idea, London’s anthropomorphisation of the dogs isn’t gimmicky or sentimental. In fact, it’s pretty raw and intense. In the immediacy of the dogs’ world, most of the human characters are fairly inconsequential. The dogs have distinct characters which are human-ish yet also not human at all. The whole book has a bit of a Lord of the Flies vibe both in the sense of a returning to nature from civilisation and in the fight to be master. Its truly a dog-eat-dog world.
He must master or be mastered; while to show mercy was a weakness. Mercy did not exist in the primordial life. It was misunderstood for fear, and such misunderstandings made for death. Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten, was the law; and this mandate, down out of the depths of Time, he obeyed.
A redeeming feature for both dogs and humans in the book is the relationship they can have with each other. When Buck finds John Thornton he finds love without reserve. Yet this ideal relationship between man and dog is not enough and London describes beautifully the battle between the two.
[Each] day mankind and the claims of mankind slipped farther from him. Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire, and to plunge into the forest. . . . But as often as he gained the soft unbroken earth and the green shade, the love of John Thornton drew him back to the fire again.
Would I recommend this book? Yes I would! I thought it was well written, fast-paced, and captivating. The concept and execution is quite different to lots of the things I’ve been reading recently.
Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.