When does Buck meet the man in the red sweater in The Call of the Wild?

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Buck meets the man in the red sweater in Chapter 1 when Manuel kidnaps him.

Manuel works for Buck’s owner, Judge Miller.  Manuel steals Buck one day.  Buck thinks he is going for a walk, but in reality he will never return.  Manuel needs to pay off his debts from the Chinese lottery.  He is put on a cate on a train for San Francisco.  There he encounters the man in the red sweater.

Four men gingerly carried the crate from the wagon into a small, high-walled back yard. A stout man, with a red sweater that sagged generously at the neck, came out and signed the book for the driver. (Ch. 1)

Buck immediately tries to attack the man, and the man fights back.  He is a dog breaker.  Calling Buck a “red-eyed devil,” he hits him with a club to make him calm down.  Buck has never been mistreated as much as he has since he was kidnapped.  He is not used to being beaten.

Buck learns the Law of Club and Fang on this journey.  As a domesticated dog, he has led a good life.  In the wild, where he is going, things are a bit more brutal.

He saw, once for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He had learned the lesson, and in all his after life he never forgot it. That club was a revelation. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law … (Ch. 1)

Although Buck is big and has some inner-strength, he is also soft.  He has never been a working dog.  Since he is going to be part of a dog-sledding team, he needs to learn to obey people so he does not get hurt, and also watch out for the dogs that try to keep him down.  That is the Law of Club and Fang.

This incident with the man in the red sweater foreshadows Buck’s experiences in Alaska.  He learns that life is about to get hard, and he also learns how to react.  Buck does not completely give up.  He does not lose his personality.  He learns to succumb and cooperate, but only so much as to avoid pain.  Buck is still independent and strong-willed, and he will use those traits to become the alpha dog.

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