In Jack London's novel The Call of the Wild, how does Buck feel about pulling the sleds?

Expert Answers
vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild, the dog named Buck (the novel’s hero) feels various reactions to the idea of being turned into a sled dog. When he is first made to serve in this capacity, his responses are mixed:

And as he had seen horses work, so he was set to work, hauling Francois on a sled to the forest that fringed the valley, and returning with a load of firewood. Though his dignity was sorely hurt by thus being made a draught animal, he was too wise to rebel. He buckled down with a will and did his best, though it was all new and strange.

Buck’s stoic reaction to his new circumstances is typical of his “personality”: he would prefer not to be a sled dog, but he is also prudent enough not to try to resist, and he is also determined enough to cope with this unexpected change in fortune. Buck is a resilient and adaptable dog.

Later, however, when Buck and his comrades are owned and abused by incompetent owners, Buck does indeed rebel against pulling a sled for these foolish and cruel humans:

The overloaded and unwieldy sled forged ahead, Buck and his mates struggling frantically under the rain of blows. A hundred yards ahead the path turned and sloped steeply into the main street. It would have required an experienced man to keep the top-heavy sled upright, and Hal was not such a man. As they swung on the turn the sled went over, spilling half its load through the loose lashings. The dogs never stopped. The lightened sled bounded on its side behind them. They were angry because of the ill treatment they had received and the unjust load. Buck was raging. He broke into a run, the team following his lead.

Nevertheless, when Buck finally (toward the end of the novel) is owned by John Thornton, a man he respects, his attitude toward pulling a sled entirely changes:

The team of ten dogs was unhitched, and Buck, with his own harness, was put into the sled. He had caught the contagion of the excitement, and he felt that in some way he must do a great thing for John Thornton.

In short, Buck’s attitude toward being a sled dog changes as his circumstances change. Sometimes he is stoic and resigned; sometimes he is rebellious and outraged; sometimes he is full of enthusiasm if he can pull a sled for the human being he loves. Buck’s attitudes are not so much attitudes toward pulling sleds as attitudes toward the humans for whom he pulls them.



Read the study guide:
The Call of the Wild

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question