In The Call of the Wild, how do Francois and Perrault respond when they discover that Buck has killed Spitz?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Jack London's naturalistic novella, Buck, a crossbreed of St. Bernard and Scottish shepherd, who has inherited the massive size of the St Bernard and the intelligence of the shepherd finds himself sold to men who train him to become a sled dog in the Yukon during the Gold Rush. Perrault, a French-Canadian, understands the sled dogs and knows full well that there can be only one alpha-male in these dogs of the wild who are not too far distant from their ancestral wolves.

With his exposure to such raw country and men, Buck returns to his atavistic instincts and recognizes the threats from Spitz, who snarls and bristles at Buck whenever possible. Perrault and Francois notice and Francois tells his partner,

“All de tam I watch dat Buck I know for sure. Lissen: some dam fine day heem get mad lak hell an’ den heem chew dat Spitz all up an’ spit heem out on de snow. Sure. I know.”

One night after supper, Buck returns to a nest he has made in the snow only to find Spitz has taken the spot. As they scuffle, Perrault steps in and uses his stick. However, while this dispute takes place, a hug pack of starving wild dogs descend upon the camp. As Buck is attacked by three huskies, Spitz nips at him.

He flung himself upon another, and at the same time felt teeth sink into his own throat. It was Spitz, treacherously attacking from the side.

One indication of Buck's vying for the position of alpha-dog is his threatening of Spitz’s leadership by siding with the weaker dogs on a run when Spitz tries to bring them into line. One day as Buck again leads the pack, Spitz breaks and runs across a narrow piece of land. Believing that Spitz is giving chase to a rabbit, Buck watches a Spitz kills his prey. Then, taking advantage of the moment, Buck charges for Spitz, but overruns him and misses his throat. Spitz regains his footing, charges and "slashing Buck down the shoulder." Now, the "time had come. It was to the death." In a brutal battle, Buck is "inexorable" and emerges as the victor, "making his kill and finding it good."

"Wh? Wot i say? I spik true w'en I say dat Buck two devils," Francois tells his partner, who also is not surprised. But, when he tries to make another dog the lead, Buck will not permit it; "he would not be content with less."

Nevaire such a dog as dat Buck!....Heem worth one t'ousn' dollair, by Gar! Eh? Wot you say Perrault?" Francois asks his partner.

And Perrault just nods his head in agreement. They are impressed with Buck and recognize him as a strong alpha-dog...."the dominant primordial beast."

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The Call of the Wild

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