Illustration of Buck in the snow with mountains in the background

The Call of the Wild

by Jack London

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Buck's adaptation and qualities driving his leadership in The Call of the Wild

Summary:

Buck's adaptation and leadership qualities in The Call of the Wild are driven by his strong instincts, intelligence, and resilience. He quickly learns the ways of the wild, asserting dominance through strength and cunning. His ability to adapt to harsh conditions and his innate leadership traits help him rise to the position of pack leader.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Buck adapt mentally to his new environment in The Call of the Wild?

Once Buck learns the hard lesson of the man in the red sweater, he adapts by watching the other dogs and understands what the laws of the wild mean. Then, his instincts begin to emerge, and this speeds up his total immersion into the life as a sled dog. He had been a picky eater before, but he soon learned to eat as fast as he could before the others took it away from him. He even learned to steal, and

this first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death. It marked, further, the decay or going to pieces of his moral nature, a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence....but in the Northland, under the law of club and fang, whoso took such things into account was a fool, and in so far as he observed them he would fail to prosper.

Totally regressed into an uncivilized animal, Buck would now steal or run from a fight if it meant saving his life. He physically adapted very quickly after his mental adjustment. His body became tough and hard, and his life as a tamed dog disappeared.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Buck adapt mentally to his new environment in The Call of the Wild?

Ever since he was cruelly abducted from Judge Miller's estate, Buck has had to adapt pretty quickly to life on the trail. But that's easier said and done. It's a hard life in which only the fittest and fiercest dogs can survive. Buck is a smart enough animal to realize that if he doesn't get with the program, he will die out here in the icy wastes.

Thankfully, Buck is a quick learner. He realizes, for instance, that he can't afford to be a fussy eater. Surrounded by other dogs ready and able to steal his food, Buck needs to wolf down his rations as quickly as possible. More than that, he has to act like the other dogs and steal food that isn't his. It may seem harsh, but in such a dog-eat-dog environment, Buck really has no choice.

Buck learns a lot from watching the other dogs. He notices how one of the new dogs, Pike, slyly steals a piece of bacon when Perrault's back is turned. He copies Pike's actions the next day, helping himself to a whole chunk of bacon. It causes a huge uproar, but Buck gets away with it; instead, another dog, Dub, is punished for the theft.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What qualities does Buck exhibit as the new team leader in The Call of the Wild?

Buck is a dog who is the protagonist of The Call of the Wild by Jack London, and this novel tells his story from benevolent captivity to wild dog. While Buck doe snot become the leader of the sled dog team right away, we see some leadership qualities in him from the beginning as well as throughout the rest of the story.

Buck is the protector of the estate he lives on in California, which is a precursor to his later role as leader. Of course, there is admittedly not much to guard in his idyllic life, but he nevertheless seems to be a born leader.

Once he is stolen and shipped to Alaska, Buck has to learn how to adapt. This is a quality of leadership, and Buck does it. Although he is abused, has to fight for his position with the other dogs, and nearly starves to death, Buck adapts. That is what effective leaders do when they have no control over their circumstances.

Buck also perseveres. Everything in his life changes--his environment, his owners, his food, his treatment, even his name--yet Buck perseveres. When he is beaten with a club, it takes Buck several times to figure out that he will not be successful. He learns the hard way, it is true, but he learns and he will not forget. Once Buck finally learns this lesson, he again adapts to his new surroundings, his new owners, and his new method of discipline. 

Buck is also physically imposing, making him fit to be the new leader of the pack. 

His development (or retrogression) was rapid. His muscles became hard as iron, and he grew callous to all ordinary pain.... He could eat anything, no matter how loathsome or indigestible.... Sight and scent became remarkably keen, while his hearing developed such acuteness that in his sleep he heard the faintest sound and knew whether it heralded peace or peril. He learned to bite the ice out with his teeth when it collected between his toes; and when he was thirsty and there was a thick scum of ice over the water hole, he would break it by rearing and striking it with stiff fore legs. His most conspicuous trait was an ability to scent the wind and forecast it a night in advance. No matter how breathless the air when he dug his nest by tree or bank, the wind that later blew inevitably found him to leeward, sheltered and snug.

These are the physical attributes which Buck has developed through his deprivation and the harshness of his new life, and they are the qualities of an effective leader. Without these skills, of course, Buck would never survive his life in the wilds of Alaska. He knows how to take care of himself, and although it may not be his personal responsibility to make sure the other dogs take care of themselves, he does set a good example for the others to follow. 

Buck's inherent nature has also been somehow activated, and this is another reason Buck makes a good leader. He trusts his instincts and uses them to keep the others in line. Buck learns that his latent (previously hidden) instincts are still strong and he revels in them throughout most of this story. 

Finally, Buck is loyal. We do not see much of that until after he takes over the leadership, but we do see it. 

Buck protects what he has been given, he adapts when necessary, he perseveres despite harsh and cruel treatment, he is physically strong and imposing, he has grown closer to the native instincts of his species, and he is lyal. These are the qualities which contribute to making him effective as the new leader of the team. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What qualities drive Buck to leadership in The Call of the Wild?

The title of Chapter III of The Call of the Wild indicates that Buck, a mix of a Scotch shepherd dog and a St. Bernard, retains the atavistic instinct of the wolf in him, the "dominant primordial beast." In addition, Buck is

preeminently cunning, and could bide his time with a patience that was nothing less than primitive.

Buck's innate strength and cunning serve him well because the club has knocked much of the "rashness" from him, so he can be patient. When the inevitable duel for leadership between him and Spitz happens, Buck is eager for it since he has been "gripped tight by that nameless, incomprehensible pride of the trail and trace" that makes dogs die happily in the harness. It is a pride that Buck recognizes in himself.

One day a rabbit has the misfortune to be discovered by Dub and the others give chase as it flees. As Buck delights in the pursuit of living game, he "sounds the deeps of his nature" and rounds a bend as Spitz grabs the rabbit, who shrieks in the forest air. When the other dogs cry out, Buck does not; instead, he feels his instinctive desire rise,

it was nothing new or strange, this scene of old time. It was as though it had always been, the wonted way of things.

Buck plays out the survival of the fittest; he attacks Spitz, but the fight becomes desperate until Buck uses his imagination and dives in low, breaking two of the legs on Spitz. Finally, Spitz disappears as the other dogs drag him off. Buck, "the dominant primordial beast" who had made his kill and found it good." Buck exemplifies the survival of the fittest as his instincts and imagination have answered "the call of the wild" and conquered Spitz.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on