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The Call of the Wild | Study Guide

Jack London

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The Call of the Wild | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In Chapter 7 of The Call of the Wild, for what purpose does Jack London use the fable of the lost mine?

Jack London uses the fable of the lost mine as a reason to immerse Buck into the wilderness. Normally, Buck alternates spending time on the trail and in boomtowns. However, London wants to plunge Buck more fully into the wild, and searching for a lost mine serves this purpose. Also, the lost mine adds a sense of mystery and suspense. The reader wants to find out if John Thornton and his group will find the mine and if they will face danger during the search. In addition, the fable forms the first part of a framing device for Chapter 7. London starts the chapter with a legend about the mine, and ends the chapter with a legend about a Ghost Dog. The first legend is based on the fear of the unknown. It also shows the human greed for riches, a major concern of socialism. Also, none of the people who have tried to find this legendary mine have returned, thereby suggesting they have died. The surplus of gold returns to nature as "a yellow stream flows from rotted moose-hide sacks [which men used to carry the gold] and sinks into the ground." The second legend is also based on the fear of the unknown. However, in this case, the subject of the legend, namely Buck, has found what he was searching for by becoming the leader of a wolf pack.

In Chapter 7 of The Call of the Wild, how does Jack London foreshadow that John Thornton and his dogsled team have entered a dangerous region?

Jack London has John Thornton and his team enter an area that has signs of human life; but no humans can be found. For example, they come across a trail in the forest that does not lead anywhere. The person who made it is long gone. Also, the reason the person made the path remains a mystery. Thornton and his team also find the remains of a cabin that contains rotting blankets and an old flint-lock rifle. However, once again, the person or people who built the cabin are nowhere to be seen. Both of these signs indicate that people used to live in the region, but for some reason have left. A likely possibility is that these people faced a dangerous situation and were killed or left because of it. Later, as Buck hunts a moose, the dog senses a change in the land. Buck feels that some type of new life is entering the region and, because of this, "he was oppressed with a sense of calamity happening."

In Chapter 7 of The Call of the Wild, what are two reasons Buck shows a "frenzy of affection" for John Thornton?

Buck has been in the wild for a long period. Because of this, Buck misses John Thornton and shows this by displaying a "frenzy of affection" for his master. Buck has just made friends with a wolf. He not only spends a long time with this wolf but also feels as if he belongs with the wolf. The narrator states, "He [Buck] knew he was at last answering the call, running by the side of his wolf brother." Then, Buck remembers Thornton and heads back toward him. In the previous chapter, Buck's bond with Thornton is so strong that Buck would willingly give his life for his master. However, now Buck senses a bond with his wolf friend that might be as strong as his bond with his master—maybe even stronger. Perhaps feeling guilty about this perceived betrayal, Buck shows a "frenzy of affection" toward Thornton to make up for it.

In Chapter 7 of The Call of the Wild, what steps lead Buck to become a fierce predator?

First, Buck is immersed in a wilderness region with John Thornton and his friends and, because of this, hears the call of the wild more strongly than ever. Also, the dog doesn't have much work to do, so he can focus more on this call. Then Buck has visions of accompanying the primitive man into the wild. These visions act as an encouragement for Buck to pursue the call in the wild. Next, Buck begins to answer the call by searching through the wild for something. During this stage, Buck forms a strong connection with the physicality of the wild, sniffing and sticking his nose into moss and fungus. In addition, Buck's sense of the call becomes more acute, and the dog doesn't hesitate answering this call. At times, Buck bolts into the wild and spends hours there. Following this, Buck meets a timber wolf and makes friends with it. So, Buck forms a tangible bond with a wolf brother who is a predator. This bond is important because Buck now begins to feel that he belongs in the wild. After this, Buck's restlessness to enter the wild and be with his wolf brother becomes intense. He is fulfilling Marx's social concept that one achieves freedom and independence when workers own the production of work and the means of their livelihood; essentially, being their own masters. Soon Buck begins to stay overnight in the wild and hunt animals for food. As Buck does this, he becomes more skilled as a hunter. Also, the dog develops a "blood-longing" for prey. Buck becomes an effective killer and develops a pride about this. Buck's intelligence combined with his physical skills make him an elite predator. Buck shows his prowess as a predator by tracking down and killing a moose. By this time, Buck has become a thing of the wild.

In The Call of the Wild, how is Buck's fight with Spitz in Chapter 3 similar to and different from Buck's fight with the wolf pack in Chapter 7?

These fights are similar because in both of them, Buck gains leadership of a community. Also, Buck wins both fights through a combination of physical skills and intelligence. However, the fights are also different. With the Spitz fight, Buck defeats one opponent. After this, the dog team soon accepts Buck as their leader. However, with the wolf pack, several wolves attack Buck. After Buck defeats each one, then the whole pack attacks Buck. So, Buck's fight with the wolf pack is more difficult than the fight with Spitz. However, by the time Buck fights the wolf pack, he has become a fierce predator with elite skills at killing. As a result, Buck is able to withstand the wolf pack's attack. Finally, Buck's fight with the wolf pack grants him permanent membership as the leader of this pack. In fact, Buck becomes legendary as this leader. Buck has found where he truly belongs. But after Buck defeats Spitz, Buck gains a leadership of the dog team, which is temporary. Buck will eventually separate from this team.

In The Call of the Wild, how and why does Jack London use dramatic visualization to depict Buck's visions?

Dramatic visualization is a literary device that involves describing an object or character in extreme detail. Jack London shows his interest in Freud's analysis of symbolism in dreams, as he uses this device to describe the primitive man in Buck's visions. In Chapter 4, the author describes this man as having "muscles that were stringy and knotted," a "head slanted back," "ragged and fire-scorched skin," and hair that is "matted into almost a thick fur." In Chapter 7, London writes that this man has his "head between his knees and hands clasped above" and "eyes that roved everywhere for hidden danger." The author uses this device to emphasize the reality of Buck's vision. These visions are not vague dreams but rather potent images that compel Buck into action. London also uses this descriptive detail to stress his belief in the theory of evolution. The primitive man seems half ape, half human. Buck sees this man as the companion of his ancient ancestors, which means the man must be an early human. Over time, according to London, primitive men evolved into modern humans.

In The Call of the Wild, how and why does Jack London use a framing device at the beginning and end of the novel?

Jack London shows Buck as a type of ruler at the beginning of the novel and again the end. By doing this, the author emphasizes how Buck has developed or retrogressed in the story. At the beginning of the story, Buck believes he rules over a community, including humans, dogs, and other animals, on the Judge's estate. The narrator states, "for he [Buck] was king—king over all creeping, crawling, flying things of Judge Miller's place, humans included." So in a way, Buck believes he dominates this region. At the end of the story, Buck becomes a wolf pack leader, who rules a community that covers a certain region and, in a way, dominates this region. In fact, the Yeehats are afraid to enter a certain valley because of the Ghost Dog, namely Buck. However, there are several important differences between the two types of rulers that reveal Buck's development. First, on the estate, Buck rules a civilized region and has no idea about the "law of club and fang." As a wolf pack leader, Buck rules a region in the wild through the use of the "law of club and fang." Also, on the estate, Buck is deluding himself. Judge Miller is the ruler of this estate, not Buck. However, in the wild, Buck earns the right to be the leader of the pack by defeating other wolves. On the estate, Buck also has no idea about the call of the wild. But as a leader of the pack, Buck has answered the call of the wild.

In The Call of the Wild, how does the motif of violence relate to the motif of visions?

For Jack London, Buck's visions are part of his call to the wild. Through these visions, Buck meets the primitive man who acts as a guide, leading Buck into the wild. Also, through visions, Buck senses his union with his primitive wolf ancestors. However, for Buck to truly answer the call of the wild, the dog must use violence skillfully to enforce the "law of the club and fang." So, Buck's use of violence allows him to answer the call he senses in his visions. For example, when Buck enters the wild after John Thornton dies, he must first use violence to be accepted in the wolf pack and thereby answer his call.

In Chapter 4 of The Call of the Wild, how does Buck use the "law of club and fang"?

After assuming the harness of leadership for the dog team, Buck uses the "law of club and fang" to discipline the dogs. When Buck mutinied against Spitz, the dog team became unruly and continued to be so even after Buck defeated Spitz. So, Buck "proceeded to lick them into shape." Buck swiftly and repeatedly shakes Pike for loafing, and smothers and bites Joe. These are examples of the "law of club and fang" because Buck, in essence, is warning these dogs that he will kill them if they don't obey him and pull the sled properly. Soon, the mood of the dog team becomes more alert and it "recovered its old-time solidarity."

In Chapter 6 of The Call of the Wild, how does Buck show the theme of knowledge and power by saving John Thornton from drowning?

Buck uses his swimming skills first to get John Thornton to a rock in the rapids and later to bring him ashore. Then, after Hans and Peter attach a rope to Buck, the dog at first miscalculates his swim toward Thornton, but he tries again and corrects his mistake. He enters the rapids and swims ahead so that he is in a straight line above Thornton, and then he allows the current to propel him directly at his master "like a battering ram." In this way, Buck reaches his master, who is hanging onto a rock. By learning how to enter the rapids, Buck gains the power to save Thornton.

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