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The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories (Twentieth-Century Classics) Paperback – August 1, 1993
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About the Author
Jack London (1876–1916) was born John Chaney in Pennsylvania, USA. In 1896 he was caught up in the gold rush to the Klondike river in north-west Canada, which became the inspiration for The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906). Jack London became one of the most widely read writers in the world.
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This is a slim volume, can perhaps be read in one sitting if you have some time. I had not imagined that such a book would keep me riveted, for it is not about mystery,suspense, adventure or action. It is about a dog! No wonder this is a classic.
(if you plan to read the book, feel free to skip the rest of this below)
The Alaska Gold Rush of late 19th century (1896 or so) attracted something like 100,000 prospectors, mostly from the San Francisco/Seattle areas to the Yukon region.Well cared, healthy, powerful dogs attracted unheard of premiums. This prompted a greedy gardener to kidnap his employer's dog and sell it off to work the sleds. While being transported from sunny Santa Clara Valley, Buck changes many cruel hands, however his last tormentor is particularly vile. He clubs Buck to pulp leaving him clinging to life. The experience infuses a steely character in Buck. While anything could break his body, nothing could break his spirit.Buck has to fight many competitors to finally establish supremacy of the pack.His masters recognize his remarkable character and reward him by according him the pride of place, to lead the pack. Demands of transportation make the dogs overworked, underfed and exploited, Buck included. He, like the rest of his pack is reduced to skin and bone. He is sold to ignorant but cruel masters who continue the exploitation, but Buck would have none of it. His greatness is recognized by a camper who adopts him and then begins Buck's wonderful life. He regains everything he had lost and seems even more virile and strong than the best of past times. Buck serves his master, even helping him add to his fortunes. When everything seems hunky dory, something tells Buck his place is in the wild. When the call of the wild is received it does not go unheeded.Meanwhile his master and associates are killed by native Indians.Trust Buck to take revenge and kill them all, establishing his superiority over even man himself. After this inflection point and after having lost his beloved master, Buck is even more convinced that his place is in the Wild and he returns to it, as if he had belonged there all the time.
The call of the Wild was a difficult read for me. At one point the animal cruelty was so much I put the book down and vowed never to pick it up. But I did pick it back up and I’m so glad I did. London’s use of symbolism and the way he captures human nature is brilliant.
I loved the philosophy in To Build a Fire, and I found many of the same themes echoed in both stories.
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It is on the American best 100 list.