Illustration of Buck in the snow with mountains in the background

The Call of the Wild

by Jack London

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The Law of Club and Fang in The Call of the Wild

Summary:

The "Law of Club and Fang" in The Call of the Wild refers to the brutal code of survival in the wild. It signifies the necessity for animals to obey humans wielding clubs and the violent, tooth-and-claw competition among animals. This harsh reality shapes the protagonist, Buck, teaching him to respect human authority and to fight fiercely for survival.

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What is the "law of club and fang" in The Call of the Wild?

Buck understands early on how the power and cruelty involved in the natural setting.  The law of the club reflects this. The law of the club is how human beings subjugate the dogs.  The world into which Buck is taken is a savage one, predicated upon power and submission.  Organisms survive through the exertion of power and control over another. The law of the club is how human beings demonstrate their power over the dogs.  Buck recognizes that there is only power, nothing close to fairness and reciprocity.  The life that Buck led with the Judge is long gone and in its place is a setting where human beings enforce their will over the dogs through the club and beating the dogs into obedient submission.

The law of the fang is how the dogs internalize this element of power within one another.  When Curly is killed by the other dogs, it is the fang that sustains life amongst the dogs.  Life in the Klondike is regulated in how the dogs interact with one another.  The law of the fang reflects this.  It is a setting in which power, not fairness, governs how the dogs behave with one another.  Curly's death reflects a lack of "moral consideration."  The law of the fang reveals this in that the dogs do not experience solidarity or a sense of honor amongst them.  The fang and seeking to avoid it is how consciousness is for the dogs in the Klondike.

Both laws underscore the world in which Buck lives.  He recognizes both laws as governing his being in the world:  "So that was the way. No fair play. Once down, that was the end of you. Well, he would see to it that he never went down."  Buck understands that both laws dictate his survival.  Living in the shadow of both the law of the club and the law of the fang is a way in which Buck learns to adapt to the world into which he has been placed.

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What is the Law of Club and Fang in The Call of the Wild?

The law of club and fang refers the primitive laws of nature and necessary survival skills for a dog's relationship with man and other dogs. Buck must learn this essential law in order to survive in the treacherous Northland.

After being savagely beaten with a club by the man in the red sweater, Buck is exposed for the first time to the brutal relationship between man and dog. He learns that the club is a powerful weapon that he must avoid in order to remain healthy. Buck is no match for a man with a club and adapts his behavior to avoid being beaten. In chapter 2, Buck witnesses a female dog named Curly accidentally stumble during a fight, which is a fatal mistake as she is savagely ripped apart by the surrounding pack of dogs. Buck realizes the importance of defending oneself and learns that there is no fair play in the wilderness. Civility no longer exists in the wilderness, and Buck must rely upon his instincts and physical abilities to survive.

The law of club and fang signifies the two most important factors for survival in the Northland: Buck's ability to avoid armed men and his ability to defend himself from other animals. 

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What is the Law of Club and Fang in The Call of the Wild?

For one thing, the Law of Club and Fang is the title of Chapter 2.  But beyond that, it is what Buck finds when he is taken away from Judge Miller's estate.

When Buck meets the man in the red sweater, he learns about the law of the club.  He learns that a man with a club is likely to be willing and able to force Buck to do his bidding.  This kind of treatment is unlike any he has ever seen before.

When he gets to Alaska and is put among the other dogs, he finds out about the law of the fang -- whoever can fight will be able to enforce their will.

So this law is basically the idea that the strong will control the weak.  There is no more civilized behavior where Buck is now -0- the strong rule and the weak must obey or die.

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