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The Call of the Wild | Study Guide

Jack London

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Course Hero. "The Call of the Wild Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 5 June 2023. <>.

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Course Hero. "The Call of the Wild Study Guide." January 12, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Call of the Wild Study Guide," January 12, 2017, accessed June 5, 2023,

Brief Plot Summary

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the plot summary of Jack London's novel The Call of the Wild.

The Call of the Wild | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Set in California during the late 1800s, The Call of the Wild features a dog named Buck who has been raised on an estate owned by Judge Miller. Buck is a big dog, part St. Bernard and part Scotch shepherd. He views himself as the prince of the estate, above Judge Miller's dogs. Then one of Judge Miller's servants secretly sells Buck to a stranger. The man puts Buck in a crate and ships him to Seattle, where another man disciplines Buck by beating him with a club. Buck grows angry at this mistreatment.

Next, Buck goes by ship to the Northland city of Dyea. On shore Buck sees a husky and other dogs kill a new canine arrival, and Buck quickly realizes there is no fair play in the Northland; it's either kill or be killed. Two men, François and Perrault, buy Buck and add him to their dog team. Buck learns how to pull a sled and how to sleep by digging a nest in the snow, but he also learns to distrust and hate the leader of the dog team, a treacherous dog named Spitz. François and Perrault place Buck in a team of eight dogs, including Spitz as the leader, and the team pulls a sled across the snow-covered terrain toward the town of Dawson. As Buck adapts to his new life, he sheds his domestication and embraces his primordial instincts.

Spitz tries to pick a fight with Buck, but Buck avoids a confrontation, instead focusing on adjusting to his new life. One night, ravenous wolves attack the camp and devour all the food. As François, Perrault, and the sled dogs continue their arduous journey to Dawson, Buck gains more confidence and makes it clear he is not afraid of Spitz. Sensing Buck's impending mutiny, the dog team becomes unruly. When the expedition reaches Dawson, Buck rests and listens to the song of the huskies, the ancient song of his breed. During the next sled excursion, Spitz confronts Buck; they have a fierce battle, and Buck cripples Spitz. Then the other dogs on the team encircle Spitz and kill him as Buck looks on, triumphant.

After defeating Spitz, Buck assumes the role of sled-team leader. Buck proves to be an excellent leader, disciplining the dogs as needed. When François and Perrault get a new assignment, they hand over the dog team to a Scotch half-breed who must deliver a heavy load of mail to the North. During the night, when Buck gazes at the fire, he has visions of a primitive man who is afraid of the dark.

In Skaguay, Alaska (today known as Skagway), Buck and his dog team are sold to two inexperienced men named Hal and Charles, along with Charles's wife, Mercedes, who is also Hal's sister. The inept trio overload the sled and refuse to rest the exhausted dogs, who have just traveled 2,500 miles, and as the team crosses the wilderness, some of the dogs die of starvation. Although he detests the new humans, Buck works as hard as he can, but he, too, becomes exhausted. Eventually, the expedition makes it to the camp of John Thornton, who warns them that the bottom of the trail is falling out because of melting ice. Hal ignores the advice and beats Buck to get him to stand up. Enraged, Thornton shoves Hal away and cuts Buck loose. The expedition continues on without Buck, but the sled breaks through ice and Hal, Charles, Mercedes, and the sled dogs plunge to their deaths.

John Thornton nurses Buck back to health, and Buck and Thornton form a strong bond. Although Buck has connected with his primordial wolf instincts, he becomes devoted to Thornton. When Thornton's boat overturns in icy rapid water, Buck does not hesitate to swim after Thornton to save his life. Back in Dawson, Buck wins a bet for Thornton by pulling a sled loaded with 1,000 pounds of goods for 100 yards.

Using his winnings, Thornton and his friends Hans and Pete finance a search for a lost mine in the remote far North. Buck leads a dog team on the search, and he enjoys being immersed in the wild. After months, the men find a stream with abundant gold, and make camp. In the following weeks, as Thornton and his friends pan gold, Buck often wanders into the woods to hunt. He becomes proud of his ability as a predator, but he always heads back to Thornton and his camp. One evening, Buck finds Hans and some dogs dead and hears Yeehats chanting. (Yeehats are a fictitious tribe of First Nations people.) Enraged, Buck attacks the Yeehats, killing some and scattering the rest. Buck then finds Thornton dead by a pool, and he mourns his master. That night, Buck hears the call of the wild. With his last tie to humans broken, Buck heads into the forest, where he meets a wolf pack. Buck shows his dominance by killing the pack's leader, and the pack accepts Buck as their new leader.

The Call of the Wild Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Buck is captured and sold to François and Perrault.

Rising Action

2 Buck learns the "law of club and fang."

3 As he pulls a sled, Buck connects with his instincts.

4 Buck defeats Spitz and becomes leader of the dog team.

5 Thornton saves Buck, and they form a bond of love.

6 As Thornton pans gold, Buck becomes a fierce predator.


7 Buck attacks the Yeehats who kills Thornton.

Falling Action

8 Buck breaks ties with humans and joins a wolf pack.


9 Yeehats tell of a legend about a Ghost Dog leading a pack.

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