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The Call of the Wild | Study Guide

Jack London

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The Call of the Wild | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In The Call of the Wild, what are four ways the starving wolves' attack increases the conflict throughout Chapter 3?

The starving wolves' attack adds to the chapter's overall conflict. This attack is violent and dramatic, with François, Perrault, and the dogs pitted against an onslaught of ravenous wolves. The attack makes the journey back to Dawson even more difficult. After the wolves eat all the food and severely wound the sled dogs, François, Perrault, and the dogs are weaker and thus in more peril as they travel through harsh terrain to Dawson. Dolly contracts rabies, most likely as a result of the wolf attack, and she goes mad and chases Buck. François kills Dolly, but Buck is exhausted from the chase. Taking advantage of this, Spitz attacks Buck. François has to separate the two dogs. Because of the attack, Buck gains more confidence in his abilities. During the difficult trip to Dawson, he demonstrates that he can thrive in harsh conditions. Feeling sure of himself, Buck shows Spitz he's not afraid of him, which enrages the leader of the pack.

In The Call of the Wild, how are François and Perrault similar and different?

François and Perrault are both dispatchers who work for the Canadian government in the Northland, but they have different roles on the sled team: Perrault leads the team, and François guides the sled. Both are knowledgeable about dogs and use stern but fair discipline. Both are also tough, determined men who can withstand adversity—such as a harsh weather or attacking wolves—and persevere. However, François and Perrault have different relationships with Buck. François becomes attached to Buck and appreciates Buck's strength and intelligence. He senses that Buck eventually will kill Spitz and become team leader. François cries when he parts from Buck. Perrault has a weaker connection with Buck and does not appreciate Buck's abilities as much. He believes Spitz will eventually kill Buck.

In Chapter 3 of The Call of the Wild, in what ways is Buck similar to an artist?

Buck is like an artist because he is skilled at and focused on a particular task. Buck's task is pulling and eventually leading a dogsled. An artist's task is making art. Both tasks require dedication and passion. Buck also is like an artist because he is creative. Buck frequently uses his imagination; for example, during his fight with Spitz, he thinks creatively to outsmart his opponent. In addition, Buck is like an artist because he can immerse himself in his work, thereby achieving a type of ecstasy. Jack London writes, "This ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive."

In Chapter 3 of The Call of the Wild, how do Buck and Spitz behave differently during the rabbit chase, and what does this difference show?

Buck chases after the rabbit along with a pack of sled dogs and police dogs. Buck immerses himself in the experience, answering a call that comes from deep in his nature: the call to be leader of a pack. By leading the other dogs during the chase, Buck shows his desire to work with the pack and be part of a community. Buck demonstrates Darwin's idea that animals can adapt to do what is good for the community and Spencer's idea about acquiring the characteristics needed to best survive. He also shows Marx's ideas about cooperation among a group being the best approach. Spitz, on the other hand, does not chase the rabbit. Instead, he cuts off the chase and confronts Buck. For Spitz, showing dominance over Buck is more important than being part of the pack or community. Buck also shows a type of honesty by surrendering fully to his instincts without any ulterior motive, while Spitz shows his cold, calculating side as he tries to outsmart Buck.

At the end of Chapter 3 in The Call of the Wild, how does the dog fight show that Buck is more creative than Spitz?

Spitz is a skilled fighter who fights like a wolf. However, he is unable to improvise or change his fighting style, and his lack of creativity and adaptability make him a predictable fighter. Buck has learned about how a wolf fights, but he is not as skilled as Spitz. Because of this, Jack London writes, "Spitz was untouched, while Buck was streaming with blood and panting hard." However, Buck uses his creativity to surprise Spitz with an unorthodox move. London writes, "He [Buck] rushed, as though attempting the old shoulder trick, but at the last instant swept low to the snow and in." Buck's superior creativity defeats Spitz.

In Chapter 3 of The Call of the Wild, what are the two main motives for the animals' use of violence?

The two main motives for violence are the uncontrolled cravings of the starving wolf pack and Spitz and Buck's enforcement of the "law of club and fang." Because they are starving, the wolves attack François's and Perrault's camp. The mob of wolves is uncontrollable and has lost any sense of reasoning. The wolves use violence not for their community's welfare but for their individual survival. In contrast, Spitz and Buck use cunning and reason to enforce the "law of club and fang." According to this law, only one dog can be the leader of the dog team, so Spitz and Buck use violence against each other to claim this position, which is ultimately for the good of their team.

In Chapter 4 of The Call of the Wild, why might Jack London have François initially refuse to make Buck the dog-team leader?

By having François at first refuse to make Buck the dog-team leader, Jack London emphasizes that Buck killed Spitz for a specific reason. Buck enforces the "law of club and fang" against Spitz because Buck knows he should lead the team, and he has earned the right to do so. François is not yet aware of what Buck already knows: Buck will be an excellent team leader. Later, London shows other instances in which Buck is more aware than the humans around him. For example, during the expedition with Hal, Charles, and Mercedes, Buck senses danger ahead, even though the three humans do not.

In Chapter 4 of The Call of the Wild, why does Jack London have the sled team make a record run?

By having the sled team make a record run, Jack London emphasizes Buck's abilities as a leader. The dogs become unruly with Buck's mutiny against Spitz, but Buck proceeds to "lick them into shape." As a result, "The general tone of the team picked up immediately. It recovered its old-time solidarity." Buck is so effective that the dogsled makes a record run. London also shows that a strong community can achieve greater goals. London also emphasizes Darwin's concept that the environment influences the team: "The trail was in excellent condition, well-packed and hard." Buck's leadership and the dog team's competence notwithstanding, the sled would not have made such a fast run without help from the environment. London suggests this by noting the dogsled covered a distance in "one day going out what had taken them ten days coming in." On the way in, the weather conditions were terrible. The sled team is influenced by forces beyond its control.

In Chapter 4 of The Call of the Wild, how does Jack London use the motif of visions to contrast civilization and the wild?

Jack London uses visions to contrast civilization and the wild by having Buck imagine his life back on the Judge's estate and see visions of a primitive man by a fire. Although Buck remembers his civilized life, these memories are vague and do not make Buck homesick. In contrast, the vision of the primitive man is strong and concrete. Buck envisions clear details of the man's appearance, such as his "ragged and fire-scorched skin hanging part way down his back." This vision stirs Buck's primordial instincts. The dog senses sights and sounds that cause "the hair to rise along his back." Through visions, London shows Buck's civilized side being replaced by his primordial instincts because of Buck's contact with the wild. Even though Buck still lives in the world of humans, he has had enough contact with the wild and the "law of club and fang" to connect with these instincts. Later, as Buck immerses himself in the wild, his vision of the primitive man will change as his instincts grow stronger.

In The Call of the Wild, what are two ways Jack London shows the "law of club and fang" to be ineffective?

London shows that the "law of club and fang" is ineffective in the face of a stronger drive or instinct. For example, when Dave becomes sick, he still insists on being part of the dog team, even though he is in severe pain. The Scotch half-breed uses the "law of club and fang" against Dave to no avail. Dave's drive to belong to his community is stronger than this law. Dave continues to tag along with the team, even though he is being whipped. Eventually, the Scotch half-breed gives in and harnesses Dave to the sled with the other dogs. The "law of club and fang" is also ineffective when used with ignorance. Hal tries to use this law by beating Buck and the other dogs to make them pull the sled faster. However, these beatings make them perform worse, not better. The exhausted, starving dogs need rest and food to perform better, but Hal and his two companions, Charles and Mercedes, are oblivious to the dogs' needs. Because of this, Hal's beatings are ineffective and abusive. He makes the dogs suffer needlessly.

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