Illustration of Buck in the snow with mountains in the background

The Call of the Wild

by Jack London

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Discussion Topic

Buck's relationship with John Thornton and its impact on his actions and future in The Call of the Wild

Summary:

Buck's relationship with John Thornton deeply impacts his actions and future. Thornton's kindness and genuine care earn Buck's loyalty and love, contrasting with his previous harsh experiences. This bond strengthens Buck, giving him the confidence to embrace his wild instincts and ultimately leading him to answer the call of the wild, symbolizing his return to his natural state.

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How does Buck show love for John Thornton in The Call of the Wild?

After John Thorton saves Buck's life by rescuing him from his inexperienced, callous owners moments before they fall through the thin ice, he nurses Buck back to health, and Buck develops a lasting affection toward his new master. Buck shows his love for Thorton by biting him gently on the hand, refusing to let him out of his sight, and demonstrating his loyalty in various ways. Buck obeys every command that Thorton gives him and is even willing to jump off a cliff to prove his loyalty. When Thorton gets into a bar fight, Buck comes to his aid by viciously attacking Thorton's opponent and almost kills the man. Buck also demonstrates his love for Thorton by saving him from drowning and winning him money by pulling a thousand-pound load. After Thorton is killed by Yeehat Indians, Buck returns to the wild but once again reveals his love for Thorton by avenging his death and visiting his grave.

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How does Buck show love for John Thornton in The Call of the Wild?

Buck shows his love for John Thornton by twice saving his life and by obeying him when he tells him to jump over a cliff.  Thornton, in turn, loves Buck and does not abuse him like the other men had.  There is a genuine respect and love between them, and Buck senses this.  Unfortunately, Thornton is killed, but Buck continues to show his love for him by visiting his grave each year.

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How does Buck show love for John Thornton in The Call of the Wild?

John Thornton is the ideal master because he not only rescues Buck from Hal and Charley's abusive ownership and nurses him back to health but also genuinely loves Buck like no master has ever loved him before. In regards to John Thornton's feelings towards Buck, London writes,

Love, genuine passionate love, was his [Buck's] for the first time. This he had never experienced at Judge Miller’s down in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley (London, 60).

While Buck's other masters view dogs as necessary to their business's success and a way of making a profit, John Thornton is genuinely concerned about his dogs' well-being and treats them as if they were his own children. John Thornton's adoration for Buck is evident in the way he speaks to his dog and his rough style of play. John Thornton also enjoys putting his head against Buck's head to demonstrate his affection, and he takes him wherever he goes. Under John Thornton's care, Buck begins to thrive and develops a genuine love for his master. Buck even accomplishes remarkable feats in order to make John Thornton proud and defends him at all costs. Overall, Buck has a passionate admiration and love for John Thornton because he recognizes his genuine love and appreciates his master for saving his life.

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How does Buck show love for John Thornton in The Call of the Wild?

Buck is accepting of John Thornton because John treats Buck with love, honor and respect.  Buck had been taken from his home, abused, beaten, passed from one abusive master to another and had lost all faith in humans.  When John comes along and buys Buck from yet another abusive human he is at first very leary of John, but Buck finally learns to trust his new master and they develop a mutual respect for each other, if not complete dedication.  John does not try to keep Buck from wandering, he does not hit him, he does not starve him and he lets Buck be as free as Buck needs to be.

"Thornton "was the ideal master. Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency; he saw to the welfare of his as if they were his own children." Buck becomes his loyal friend and loves him more than any human or beast he has ever known."

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How does John Thornton's death impact Buck's future in The Call of the Wild?

The previous posts were accurate.  I would only like to echo that the death of Thornton helps to sever the bonds between Buck and humanity.  In his own mind, there had been an ongoing civil war between trust and mistrust of humans.  Buck had experienced both extremes, from loving masters to those who embodied cruelty.  One of the most rich elements of the novel is the idea that there is an insistent battle between good and evil, trust and mistrust, and that all creatures are the result of this equation.  The elements that are placed on one side of it are balanced out by another and the result is simply the consequence of what is placed on each side.  In Buck's case, the addition of Thornton's death placed more elements on the side of mistrust, which is why Buck no longer trusts humans. Yet, in the most poignant of acts, he still visits Thornton's grave to mark the presence of the last bond Buck has to humans and their world.

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How does John Thornton's death impact Buck's future in The Call of the Wild?

Thornton and his partners are surprised by a group of Yeehat Indians and murdered. Buck comes upon the bodies of his master and friends and, realizing what happened, decides to track the killers. Buck surprises them, killing a number and scattering the rest. His hatred for the Indians keeps him hot on their trail, and he eventually becomes a legend to the tribe as the dog who hunts then relentlessly. The death of Thornton frees Buck at last from human control, and he is at last able to pursue the long heard call of the wild. He joins a pack of wild wolves and presumably spends the rest of his days in the Yukon free from the control of humans.

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How does John Thornton's death impact Buck's future in The Call of the Wild?

There are two major ways in which the death of John Thornton affects Buck.

First of all, it breaks the last connection that Buck had with the human world.  After Thornton dies, Buck stops trying to fight against the call of the wild.  Instead, he gives in and becomes the leader of the pack of wolves.

Second, it makes Buck hate the Yeehat Indians.  Because of this, the tribe becomes very afraid of Buck and the pack.  Buck goes down in legend as the Ghost Dog because of the way he terrorizes the Yeehats.

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How does Buck save John Thornton in chapter 7 of The Call Of The Wild?

That's an interesting question, given that John Thornton dies in chapter 7. However, before this happens, a wolf comes near John Thornton. Buck faces the wolf down, leads him on and away, and, eventually, becomes friends with him, keeping John safe.

I'm not sure this saves John, though, since he is eventually killed. Buck does avenge him, though, by attacking the Yeehats who killed him.

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