Course Hero Logo

The Call of the Wild | Study Guide

Jack London

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Call of the Wild Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 9 June 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, January 12). The Call of the Wild Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Call of the Wild Study Guide." January 12, 2017. Accessed June 9, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Call of the Wild Study Guide," January 12, 2017, accessed June 9, 2023,

Chapter 2

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 2 from Jack London's novel The Call of the Wild.

The Call of the Wild | Chapter 2 | Summary



In the frontier town of Dyea, Alaska, Buck learns more about "the law of club and fang" by witnessing Curly being attacked by a husky dog who rips open the Newfoundland's throat. After this, a circle of dogs descend on Curly and rip him apart. Although angry about the attack on Curly, François and Perrault break up the slaughter too late. Shocked, Buck has trouble sleeping. However, he also learns there is no fair play in this uncivilized world. The white dog named Spitz seems amused by Curly's death. Buck hates Spitz "with a bitter and deathless hatred."

Soon François harnesses Buck to a sled. Along with Dave and Spitz, Buck pulls a sled to transport firewood. At first, Buck finds this work demeaning, but he quickly learns how to work efficiently with the other dogs at their task. François and Perrault add more dogs to the team, including good-natured Billie, sullen Joe, and Sol-leks. Like Dave, Sol-leks seems to have no interest in what's going on around him and wants to be left alone.

During the night, Buck has trouble sleeping because of the harsh cold. In addition, he can't locate the other dogs on his team. Perplexed, he wanders around the camp for a while. Suddenly, his paws sink into the snow and he feels something wiggling. Startled, Buck jumps back and sees Billie "curled up under the snow in a snug ball." Buck soon digs himself a hole, curls up inside it, and falls asleep. The next morning, Buck feels the snow pressed around him and thinks he's caught in a trap. Terrified, he leaps up, pushing himself out of the snow and into the crisp morning air. François admires how quickly Buck learned the best way to sleep in the frigid wild.

The French Canadians add three more huskies, making a team of nine. Their job is to transport dispatches via sled. Buck notices when Dave and Sol-leks are harnessed to the sled how they change from disinterested creatures to alert and active dogs. Pulling a sled seems to be what these two dogs live for. The Canadians place Spitz at the head as the leader of the team. As the dogs pull the sleds in single file, Dave and Sol-leks use their sharp teeth to correct Buck when he does something wrong. During the day, the dogs pull the sled over glaciers and deep snowdrifts. Usually, Perrault goes ahead of the sled and François rides the vehicle, guiding it. The journey lasts for days. At mealtime, Buck soon understands he has to eat his food quickly. If he doesn't, other dogs snatch some of the food from him. Also, Buck notices dogs steal bacon and other food from François and Perrault. Soon Buck does the same without getting caught. He is adapting to the new rules of this uncivilized world to survive. Buck learns quickly, as his body grows stronger and his senses of sight and smell become more acute. In addition, Buck has started to get in touch with his primitive instincts, fighting other dogs in a wolflike manner. And when Buck howls during the night, "it was his ancestors ... howling down through the centuries and through him."


Jack London contrasts the civilized world where Buck grew up with a new, uncivilized world of sled dogs and human masters. This uncivilized world is not the wild that will eventually call to Buck; instead, it's an intermediate stage between civilization and the wild. This stage has vastly different rules from civilization's rules, and prepares Buck for the wild. London refers to this new set of rules as "the law of club and fang," which is enforced by violence. In contrast, the author calls the rules of civilization "the law of love and fellowship." So, London's idea of law and order consists of a basic dichotomy between these two codes of law. Buck has already begun to show the Darwinian concept of natural selection. His mixed-breed ancestry allows him to adapt to and take advantage of his new, more primitive world.

In the previous chapter, London showed the club part of "the law of club and fang" through the man in the red sweater and his use of a club to beat Buck into submission. In this chapter, the author depicts the fang part by describing the death of Curly. When this Newfoundland tries to be friendly to a husky, the husky tears Curly's throat, and then a pack of dogs rips Curly apart. This shows Buck that in the uncivilized world, the strong dominate the weak through the use of violence. This event also demonstrates Herbert Spencer's influence on London. Curly's death conveys Spencer's ideas of the survival of the fittest.

To survive in this harsh reality, Buck must quickly learn new skills. By doing this, London shows how knowledge leads to power. Buck learns in the Northland that the law consists of strength and violence and has no rules of fair play. As a result, Buck must always be on guard with the dogs and people he encounters. This awareness proves to be essential to Buck's survival. Then Buck gains knowledge about a host of other things, such as how to sleep during the night, how to eat food, and how to pull a sled. All of this knowledge empowers Buck, enabling him to survive. During this process of learning, Buck has to use his primal instincts more often. For example, when attacked, Buck realizes he must fight using a cut-and-slash technique like a wolf. By doing this, Buck is connecting to his primitive side and his forgotten ancestors. Sensing this connection, Buck howls during the night and feels his ancestors howling through him. Here, London appears to be influenced by Darwin's ideas about the strong influence of the environment on one's nature.

In addition, through his learning, Buck moves from a chaotic situation back to a sense of belonging. However, in this uncivilized world, Buck must adapt and change to achieve this belonging. The author shows this through the example of Buck stealing food. In civilization, Buck knew he should not steal food from humans and proved himself a good dog by not doing this. As a result, Buck showed he belonged in civilization. In the Northland, though, the ground rules have changed. Buck witnesses another dog stealing bacon and getting away with it. According to "the law of club and fang," such behavior is accepted. Each animal looks out for its own needs and grabs what it can. Understanding this, Buck also steals some food. So, behavior that would warrant a severe reprimand for Buck on the Judge's estate is now accepted among the dogs, thereby showing how Buck is fitting in with his new environment. Also, Buck shows he belongs by adapting well to his new routine. Like the other dogs in his team, Buck pulls the sled effectively, eats fish for dinner, crawls in the snow to sleep, and wakes up early in morning with the other dogs and starts the routine over.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Call of the Wild? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!