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

Manuel's role and consequences in the kidnapping of Buck in The Call of the Wild

Summary:

Manuel's role in the kidnapping of Buck in The Call of the Wild is that he betrays Buck and sells him for money to pay off his gambling debts. The consequence of this action is that Buck is thrust into a harsh new life in the wilderness, drastically changing his circumstances and setting the stage for his transformation from a domesticated pet to a wild creature.

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Why did Manuel kidnap Buck in The Call of the Wild?

The opening paragraph of Jack London's novella, The Call of the Wild provides the answer to why Manuel steals Buck and sells him:

...Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal,...These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were dogs...with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them....

It is the time of the Gold Rush, the Klondike strike. And, Manuel, the gardener, is in debt because of his uncontrollable gambling. Since he does not make enough money to provide for his wife and many children and also play Chinese lottery, Manuel has put himself in debt. So, in order to procure money with which to pay his debts, he takes Buck off one night while the Judge and others of his family are gone. Having prearranged for the new owner to meet him, Manuel hands off Buck for money.

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Why did Manuel kidnap Buck in The Call of the Wild?

Manuel kidnaps Buck because he want to make money out of him by selling him. Manuel needs this money to fund his gambling habit, and also he has a large family to provide for. We can also assume that he probably doesn't get paid a great deal for his work as a gardner's helper on the wealthy estate where Buck lives. Buck is a very valuable dog and there is good money being paid on the black market for strong dogs to pull sleds in the cold north, where gold is being mined. It is not likely that Buck would ever have left his comfortable life as an adored family pet in a rich household had it not been for Manuel. 

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Why does Manuel steal Buck?

Short Answer: Manuel sold Buck to fund his gambling habit.

Manuel is the gardener's helper, who has an affinity for gambling. Manuel specifically enjoys gambling on the Chinese lottery and believes that he has discovered a system that will ensure victory each time he plays. However, Manuel begins to lose his bets and needs more money to fund his gambling habit. Despite his affinity for gambling, Manuel does not make enough money to gamble with and decides to sell Buck to fund his gambling addiction. On the night that the Judge is attending a meeting at the Raisin Growers’ Association, Manuel walks Buck to a little flag station known as College Park, where he sells Buck to a stranger. Buck is then transported to Seattle and eventually travels to the Northland.

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Why does Manuel steal Buck?

Manuel had a gambling addiction. He needed money to feed his habit, while at the same time trying to provide for his family. At the time that the story takes place (late 1800's California Gold Rush), there was a strong need for sled dogs for the Yukon. Manuel apparently was aware of this and knowing what sort of potential Buck had, decided that he could sell him for money. While he was correct in his assessment, one could pretty much gather that this was only a short term solution to the larger problem of his financial predicament.

As the story progresses, Buck is sold on a number of other occasions for varying reasons. Getting to the root of all these reasons, the reader will find money as the overriding issue.

One of the challenges I've found in teaching Call of the Wild for so many years, is the advanced vocabulary in London's writing. As a studnent, it's imperative that you "fight against" the tendencey to shut down because of the language. Doing so will enhance your experience with this classic work.

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In The Call of the Wild, does Manuel get caught for kidnapping Buck?

Manuel is a gardener's helper working on Judge Miller's property in the Santa Clara Valley. Manuel is a gambler who is addicted to betting on the Chinese lottery. He apparently fell in debt and decided to steal Buck and sell him. They met a man at a "little flag station known as College Park," and money changed hands. Manuel advised the man who placed the rope around Buck's neck to "Twist it an' you'll choke 'm plentee," and Buck's new owner nodded in approval. It was the last mention of Manuel in the novel, so the reader is never told whether Manuel was caught or not. Since no one else saw him leave with Buck, we can assume that he was not caught or punished.

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