What is the main internal and external conflict of The Call of the Wild and their outcomes?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the novel, London anthropomorphizes Buck by attributing human characteristics and emotions to him. Therefore, Buck is the "Man" in the various conflicts he encounters. Buck must endure the harsh environment, survive malevolent humans and animals, and contain his natural instincts throughout the story.

Man vs. Nature: After being taken away from the sun-kissed, comfortable Southland environment, Buck must endure the harsh, cold weather of the Canadian wilderness. Buck risks freezing to death in the rough winter, falling through thin ice, and starving to death in the desolate environment of the Northland. Fortunately, Buck adapts to the rough conditions and ends up thriving in the Canadian wilderness.

Man vs. Man: Buck has to battle against the malicious lead-dog named Spitz. In chapter 3, Buck leads a group of dogs in pursuit of a rabbit when Spitz joins the chase and attacks the rabbit at the exact time Buck dives for it. Buck rams into Spitz and the two dogs end up fighting a brutal battle. Buck ends up breaking Spitz's legs before finishing him off in front of the other dogs.

Buck also has to survive the brutal man in the red sweater, who wields a club in order to break Buck and make him obedient. Buck quickly learns to capitulate and avoid any man wielding a weapon.

Man vs. Self: Buck's internal conflict concerns the suppression of his primitive instincts. Throughout the novel, Buck fights the urge to return to the wilderness and follow the "call of the wild." As Buck is ripped from civilization, he becomes increasingly savage. Towards the end of the story, Buck struggles to contain his primitive instincts and leave his loving master, John Thornton. After Thorton is murdered by Native Americans, Buck fully embraces his primitive nature and runs with the wolves in the wilderness.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main external conflict is man vs. nature. The conflict is shown by the differences between the Southland, symbolizing civilization, and the Northland, symbolizing the savage forces of nature. Buck is ill-prepared for the cold, frozen North compared to the warm, comfortable life he led in the South. He first must survive the beatings by the man in the red sweater, and then survive in his life as a sled dog. Francois, Perrault, and the other dogs teach Buck quickly what he needs to know to survive. Not only does he just survive, he becomes like a wolf. In the end, he's a legendary animal in stories told by the Yeehats, the natives of the Northland.

The main internal conflict is Buck vs. his instincts, which have been suppressed by living in the Southland, and his struggle to be able to answer "the call of the wild" by discovering instincts from long ago. London, the author, anthropomorphizes the dogs, so Buck is treated in the same manner as a human. When Buck faces the man in the red sweater, his pride won't let him give up at first, but he learns the danger of a man with a club. Once he becomes a sled dog, he dreams of the "hairy man" from long ago and unearths the instincts of his wild relatives. The longer Buck lives in the North, the more he becomes a dog of the wild. In the end, he runs free as head of a pack of wolves, having completely answered "the call of the wild".