Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

In 1897, during the Klondike Gold Rush, a dog named Buck lives a pampered, serene life on the Santa Clara, California, estate of a wealthy judge. Buck is large and strong, a mix of St. Bernard and Scotch shepherd, and the undisputed ruler of all the dogs on the estate.

The gold rush has created an insatiable demand for dogs to pull the sleds of the prospectors across the frozen North. Buck, big, strong, healthy, and well-furred, is stolen by a worker on the judge's estate and sold to pay his gambling debts. Buck is crated and transported north, away from warm California where he led a life of easy nobility, to the frigid North, where dogs are ruled by the clubs and whips of men and the fangs of other dogs.

Buck is broken to the harness and spends his days hauling in the traces with the dog team. He is clubbed and whipped when he makes mistakes and disciplined by bites from the dog team when he fails to perform his duties correctly. He quickly learns the job of pulling the sled and becomes the best dog in the whole Klondike, renowned for his formidable strength and keen intelligence.

As he becomes accustomed to his new life in the North, Buck becomes aware of his latent wild nature, and the instincts of his wild ancestors rise in him and begin to govern him. The pull of these wild instincts and urges grows stronger and stronger the longer he stays in the North, until he can resist them no longer.

Jack London lived a life of adventure. He was a gold prospector during the Klondike Gold Rush, a seal hunter in the North Pacific, a sailor, a war correspondent, and a prizefighter, among other pursuits. His lust for life permeates his work. The Call of the Wild is one of his best works and is one of the most famous dog stories ever written. He died young, at the age of 40, leaving behind a great body of work. Another of his famous stories which you might enjoy is White Fang, also set in the wilds of the North.

A classic of American literature. Rating: 5

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