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Jack London's novel The Call of the Wild, is about Buck, a courageous dog fighting for survival in the Alaskan wilderness, is considered to be his masterpiece. This legend shows the harsh and frozen Yukon during the Gold Rush. As Buck is ripped from his pampered surroundings and shipped to Alaska to be a sled dog, his primitive, wolflike nature begins to emerge. Savage struggles and strong bonds between man, dog, and wilderness are displayed to there extremes, as Buck undertakes a mystic journey that transforms him into the legendary "Ghost Dog" of the Klondike.
Buck the dog is first portrayed living in the Santa Clara Valley, on Judge Miller's property. He was the ruler of his domain, uncontested by any other local dogs he was a mix between a St. Bernard and a Scotch Shepherd dog. He weighed one hundred and forty pounds, and he carried every single one of those pounds with the utmost pride. Buck had everything he could want, but little did he know, he would soon have it all taken away from him. One night, while the judge was away at a raisin grower's committee meeting, the gardener, Manuel, took Buck away from his home. Buck was then sold, and thrown in a baggage car. This would be the beginning of a new, cruel life for Buck."Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing." (London 1)
On his voyage to a place where he had no concept of his destination his pride was severely damaged, if not completely wiped out by men who used tools to restrain him. No matter how many times Buck tried to fight back, he would just be
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choked into submission at the end. "In quick rage he sprang at the man, who met him halfway grappled him close by the throat, and with a deft twist threw him over his back." (5)
When Buck arrived at his destination, there was snow everywhere, not to mention the masses of Husky and wolf dogs. Buck was thrown into a pen by a man who had a club. This is where Buck would learn one of the two most important laws that a dog could know in the Klondike, "the law of club" it is quite simple to grasp an understanding of this law, it is that if there is a man with a club, a dog would be better off not to challenge that man. Buck learned this law after he was beaten half to death by the man who had the club. "A dozen times he charged, and as often the club broke the charge and smashed him down." (21)
Buck was later sold off to a man who put him on a sled team in a harness connected to many other dogs. Buck was found it hard to adapt to this at first, but eventually, he learned the way of trace and trail. Buck had to learn many things if he was to survive in this frigid land. He had to learn to sleep under the snow, and to eat his food as fast as possible so as not to have it stolen by the other dogs. "Here there is neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment's safety." (30)
At about this point in the novel Buck starts to go through a metamorphosis of sorts. He transforms from a house dog to a more primitive, savage version of his former self. It was as if hundreds of years of knowledge, learned by his ancestors, were dug up and brought out. Buck proceeded to lose all the fat in his body and replace it with muscle. Buck was no longer Judge Miller's pet. He was a machine of survival and triumph. Most Southland dogs like him ended up dead because of their inability to conform.
Buck was born to lead the team, but one dog would do everything possible to
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try and keep him down. This dog's name was Spitz. Spitz was a white wolf dog who was a proven champion in confrontation and was as crafty as they come. It was clear that he and Buck would not work well together. The law of Fang is such that, when two dogs fight and one is knocked to the ground, that is it. The rest of the spectators will instantly pounce on the downed dog and make quick work of it. "The fight was growing desperate. And all the while the silent and wolfish circle waited to finish off whichever dog went down."
All of these unspoken rules had turned Buck into the best dog to ever roam the Klondike. Buck did eventually fight Spitz and send him to his death. After all of the transformations and cruelty he had been through, one would think that Buck would never be able to trust another human. He was being starved to death by a gold seeking group who had not brought enough food for the dogs. When Buck could finally not move another step, a man from the group started to beat Buck. As the blows grew less and less painful, and he was fading farther and farther, Buck knew he was dying.
While Buck was being beaten, a man named John Thornton came forth and took Buck from his attacker. Thorton nursed Buck back to health, and from that day forward, Buck lived for that man. Buck loved him with all his being. After being with this man for quite some time, Buck learned to love the man that cared for him, and would do anything for that man.
As Buck was off on his own on one of his many journeys he came across a pack of wild dogs who accepted him. Buck learned to catch his own food and began to feel the urge to be free. His journeys later became no longer journeys because he would not return, he was a wild dog now too. One day Buck finally went back to find that his home was destroyed and that there was singing going on. Buck noticed
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that there was strange men dancing and chanting, it was the Yeehats, a tribe of Indians who had done this to his home. Buck became very disturbed but nothing prepared him for what he was about to see, it was John Thorton lying dead on the ground with the Yeehats surrounding him. "A gust of overpowering rage swept over him. He did not know that he growled, but he growled aloud with terrible ferocity. For the last time in his life he allowed passion to usurp cunning and reason, and it was because of his great love for John Thorton that he lost his head." (107) Buck followed by the pack of wild dogs chased all of the Yeehats off, scaring the life right out of some of these warriors this became the legend of Buck the dog. "But more remarkable than this, the Yeehats tell of a Ghost Dog that runs at the head of the pack." (111)
Savage struggles and strong bonds between man, dog, and wilderness are displayed to their extremes, as Buck undertakes a mystic journey that transforms him into the legendary "Ghost Dog" of the Klondike. Buck leads a pleasant life in the Santa Clara Valley with his kind master Judge Miller but Buck is torn from his home and forced to adapt to a new environment, to find the savageness that every dog has inside themselves and to learn to become a leader with the help of no one but himself. And so as Buck's transformation is complete it is realized that Buck has changed from a domesticated dog to a beast of nature.