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 journey and transformation after leaving Judge Miller's home in The Call of the Wild

Summary:

After leaving Judge Miller's home, Buck undergoes a profound transformation from a domesticated pet to a wild, primal creature. He learns to survive in the harsh wilderness, adapting to the brutal conditions and asserting his dominance. Buck's journey symbolizes a return to his ancestral roots, ultimately embracing his instincts and the call of the wild.

Expert Answers

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

What could have happened to Buck after Chapter 7 in The Call of the Wild?

To me, it is quite clear that Buck went on to be the leader of a pack of wolves in the wilderness.   For example, the Yeehats started to notice that future generations of wolves looked more like Buck.   He continued to hate the Indians (Jack London was a noted racist...) and continued to rob their traps and kill their dogs.

So to describe the rest of his life, I think that you should think about what you imagine the life of the leader of a wolf pack would be like.  I imagine that he would do a lot of hunting.  He would probably have to fight a lot, both to keep control of his pack and maybe to keep other packs from coming on their territory.  Maybe you can think of other things that he would do...

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

In The Call of the Wild, what happens to Buck after leaving Judge Miller's home?

A lot happens to Buck after he leaves Judge Miller's house.  I want to make it clear though that Buck did not leave the Miller house by his own choice.  Buck loved the Miller family and they loved him.  Unfortunately the gardener, Manuel, does not love Buck that much and has a gambling debt.  Manual "dognaps" Buck and sells him.  From there Buck is transported in a cage to an unknown destination via train.  

Eventually Buck is let out of his prison by a man in a red sweater . . . and a club. 

A stout man, with a red sweater that sagged generously at the neck, came out and signed the book for the driver. That was the man, Buck divined, the next tormentor, and he hurled himself savagely against the bars. The man smiled grimly, and brought a hatchet and a club.

The man in the red sweater calmly used the hatchet to free Buck from his cage, and he then picked up the club.  Enraged at having been mistreated for days, Buck attacked the man in the red sweater.  Each time that Buck attacked, the man defended himself and hit Buck with the club.  

A dozen times he charged, and as often the club broke the charge and smashed him down.

Buck continued to charge and attack until he was beaten senseless.  The encounter with the man in the red sweater was Buck's introduction to the "primitive law" that will become important through the rest of the novel.  The law is "might makes right."  As long as that man held the club, he held the power.  

He was beaten (he knew that); but he was not broken. 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, and he met the introduction halfway.

The next thing that happened to Buck was waiting.  Buck saw other dogs come and go as they were bought and sold by the man in the red sweater.  Eventually a man named Perrault buys Buck, places him on a ship, and takes Buck north where he encounters snow for the first time.  That will end chapter one.  

At the first step upon the cold surface, Buck’s feet sank into a white mushy something very like mud. He sprang back with a snort. More of this white stuff was falling through the air. He shook himself, but more of it fell upon him. He sniffed it curiously, then licked some up on his tongue. It bit like fire, and the next instant was gone. This puzzled him. He tried it again, with the same result. The onlookers laughed uproariously, and he felt ashamed, he knew not why, for it was his first snow.

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

What happens to Buck after he leaves Judge Miller's home in Call of the Wild?

The theft and sale of Buck in The Call of the Wild completely alters the dog's life as it reverses the generations of domestication of his breeds of St. Bernard and the Scottish shepherd and returns him to the atavistic nature of his ancestors.

Once Buck is in the possession of his captors, his freedom and kind treatment by humans vanishes. He becomes no more than a caged animal, at first. Then, he finds himself harnessed to a team that pulls a sled in Alaska. "He swiftly lost the fastidiousness which had characterized his old life." He begins to gobble down food lest another take it from him, and he steals what he can. These actions marks his adaptability and his new owners are pleased.

Because the "dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck" certain traits emerge in him such as cunning and deliberateness. For instance, he avoids fights, and although he hates his rival, the lead dog Spitz, Buck does not display his feelings and avoids offensive acts that would spur Spitz to fight. But, one day when Spitz tries to steal the nest Buck has made under a rock, he feels the "beast in him" roar, and he fights the usurper. However, as they fight, "famished beasts" appear, trying to steal as much food as they can. Buck fights them fiercely. Finally, one day Buck kills Spitz and takes over as the lead dog.

Later, Buck finds himself on another team that carries heavy loads of mail. When he and the other dogs arrive, they are in a "wretched state, worn out and worn down." One of the dogs is shot because he is so weakened. Afterwards, the owners sell Buck and his team to three eager prospectors. Unfortunately, they have little knowledge of the climate or dogs, and they overload the sled and have planned poorly for the journey they undertake. The woman, Mercedes, overfeeds the dogs early on and they run out of food for the dogs. By the time that they arrive, out of fourteen only five have survived. When the man, Hal, tries to beat the dogs and force them to cross thin ice, Buck's instincts tell him to rebel because of danger. When he does so, Hal beats him fiercely, but John Thornton intervenes, rescuing Buck from his insensitive owners who fall through the ice.

With Thornton as his owner, Buck lives happily; in his devotion to the man who has saved him, he, in turn, saves his owner from drowning and from an attack by another man. Buck even wins over a thousand dollars for Thornton as he pulls a load weighing about half a ton. Over time, however, more of the primordial beast emerges in Buck and he wanders off to hunt real game such as moose. He also mingles with wolves, but he still returns to camp at night. One time, however, Buck returns to find his owner has been killed by Yeehat Indians. Fiercely, he kills several of the Indians and runs off the others. Afterwards, Buck charges into the wild,; there he hears yelps that act as that atavistic call which persists in his memory. 

It was the call, the many-noted call, sounding more luringly and compelling than ever before.

Now without his human owner, Buck answers this call. When a pack of wolves come one day, Buck kills the boldest one and fights the others. But, when an old wolf approaches and sniffs his nose peacefully, then turns up his head and howls at the moon, Buck, too, howls. After this night he runs with the pack of wolves, yelping as they do. In time Buck becomes a legendary figure as the Indians who yet fear him call him the Ghost Dog.

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