Overview from www.bn.com: “The Call of the Wild” is considered to be one Jack London’s greatest novels. During the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 19th century London traveled there to strike it rich. While he didn’t find any gold he came away with the experiences that would inspire some of his greatest writing. “The Call of the Wild”, one of the greatest examples of this inspiration, is an exciting tale of adventure set in the great frozen north of the Yukon wilderness.
This one, as you might have guessed, is another free e-book from Barnes and Nobel. It was not one of the Free Friday offers but I think it is one of those old copies of a book that Google scans and offers for free. Although I had often wanted to read one of Jack London’s books this was the first time that I have done so.
First, I would like to say how thankful I am that this novel was short. In these days were it seems like many authors think longer is better this is a refreshing change.
Of course it is told from the point of view of a dog, though via the third person, which is probably at least part of the reason for its brevity. After all, how much can a dog really have to say. It turns out to be more than I thought he would, or at least according to the author’s imagination. I wonder how many of these dogs he encountered on his travels to the Yukon. I can’t think of any other of the classics which tells the story of a dog so intensely. In fact, I doubt if, prior to this novel, it ever occurred to an author to write a story about a dog’s journey.
Second, I was both relieved and amazed by how easy it was to read. No advanced degrees in literature were required to understand the images and feelings that the author conveys in this tale. This was good news for me. If you can imagine sled dogs and freezing cold places covered with snow, you can see any of the images this book throws at you. The only difficulty I had was in trying to understand some of the dialogue of the French Canadians.
The thing that stood out at me the most, however, was the imagery that London creates. It is so striking, so vivid. You can really see Buck’s rage as well as his looks in this description for example.
“”Now, you red-eyed devil,’ he said… And Buck was truly a red-eyed devil, as he drew himself together for the spring, hair bristling, mouth foaming, a mad glitter in his blood-hot eyes.” p.8
Another good description is here:
“The hair hung down, limp and draggled, or matted with dried blood where Hal’s club had bruised him. His muscles had wasted away to knotty strings, and the flesh pad had disappeared, so that each rid and every bone in his frame were outlined cleanly though the loose hide that was wrinkled in folds of emptiness. it was heartbreaking, only Buck’s heart was unbreakable. The man in the red sweater had proved that. p. 45
I would have put more quotes in this review but I did not want to give away too much about the ending. I came to see however that the story is about Buck’s two natures as well our two natures. On the one side we have our tame, normal selves that go about our daily business and do what everyone else expects of them. On the other side, we are wild and baseless, when we let the other side have control. When left to our devices this is the one we go back to. This one, London seems to be saying, is the real us, or the real Buck in any case.
He is wild and untamed at heart. He had the will within him to survive but only if he has the courage to give up some things (and people) that mean a great deal to him. Only then can he be who he was born to be. Only then can he answer the call of the wild.