The Call of the Wild eText - Reading Pointers for Sharper Insights

Jack London

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Reading Pointers for Sharper Insights

  1. In order to fully grasp the literary significance and beauty of The Call of the Wild, we need to first explore some of the symbols London uses.

  2. The novel opens with an epigraph taken from John Myers O'Hara's poem, “Atavism.” Atavism is defined as the reappearance of characteristics after they have been gone for several generations. What characteristics of Buck reappear throughout the novel?

  3. London contemplates the idea of nature and the primitive throughout The Call of the Wild. Look for ways the novel idealizes and/or glorifies nature over intellect. In particular, consider the ways humans and animals differ in their actions and reactions related to the wilderness. Examine the ways the laws of the wild and of civilization differ. Does London seem to favor one system of law over the other?

  4. How does Buck's transition from domesticated dog to wild animal reflect an emergence of his natural instincts? Recall his feelings and responses to his knowledge of his ancestors. What connections with the past does Buck's howling form?

  5. There are numerous allusions to the ideas and works of Charles Darwin in The Call of the Wild, in particular to his theory of natural selection. What, if any, commentary does the novel offer on the theory? How does London seem to be supporting or discrediting Darwin's theory?

  6. Consider the ways that Buck rebels against the hierarchy of the pack. What is the motivation behind his quest to be top-dog? Why does he first try to appear subordinate rather than to simply challenge for the lead? As you think about these questions, also look at the ways Buck's experiences with the other dogs parallel his hunt of the moose.

  7. Examine Buck's relationship with John Thornton. In what ways are the two alike? Buck seems to be continually motivated to protect Thornton above all other humans, as Thornton is equally driven to protect Buck. How do Buck and Thornton react to these unspoken pledges?

  8. The novel relies on readers’ suspending their disbelief and accepting the tale of an animal that is described in all-too-human terms. Consider the novel's employment of anthropomorphism. Is it believable to have a dog experiencing and relaying human feelings? Buck's feelings towards humans evolve, but are there any specific events that inspire his decision to treat the regard of other dogs higher than that of men?