The Call of the Wild | Study Guide

Jack London

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The Call of the Wild | Quotes


During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in himself, was even a trifle egotistical.

Narrator, Chapter 1

Buck was raised in a very civilized environment and sees himself as the ruler of the Judge's estate. However, Buck is deluding himself; the Judge, not Buck, rules the estate. Buck has a false sense of dominance.


That club was a revelation. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law, and he met the introduction halfway. The facts of life took on a fiercer aspect; and while he faced that aspect uncowed, he faced it with all the latent cunning of his nature aroused.

Narrator, Chapter 1

Buck gets a rude awakening when he faces the law of the club. Buck realizes he is not a princely ruler but rather a subject ruled by any man wielding a club. This realization brings Buck in closer contact with his primitive nature. He must rely on this nature to deal with the law of the club.


They were savages, all of them, who knew no law but the law of club and fang.

Narrator, Chapter 2

After arriving in the North, Buck realizes the entirely new world he has entered, including men with clubs and dogs, is ruled by the "law of club and fang." This law is based on the strong dominating the weak through violence. Buck knows he must study and learn to survive in this world.


Another lesson. So that was the way they did it, eh? Buck confidently selected a spot, and with much fuss and wasted effort proceeded to dig a hole for himself.

Narrator, Chapter 2

Buck begins to learn about surviving in the uncivilized world. He realizes he must follow the other dogs' lead and dig a hole in the snow to sleep in. Buck is acquiring knowledge that will help him survive and become powerful.


And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down.

Narrator, Chapter 2

As Buck learns more about surviving in the uncivilized world, he forms a strong connection with his primitive instincts. He also gains a sense of his wolf ancestors' history.


In the main they were the wild wolf husky breed. Every night, regularly, at nine, at twelve, and three, they lifted a nocturnal song, a weird and eerie chant, in which it was Buck's delight to join.

Narrator, Chapter 3

As Buck adapts to the fierce Northland, he feels a yearning to belong with the dog community, so he is delighted to join the huskies as they howl. For Buck, this community forms a link to his ancestral wolf community.


Buck stood and looked on, the successful champion, the dominant primordial beast who had made his kill and found it good.

Narrator, Chapter 3

Buck has become an expert at enforcing the "law of club and fang," and he uses this skill to defeat Spitz. Buck knows a dog team or pack needs a strong leader, and he proves he is most qualified for this position by taking on Spitz. Buck is no longer deluding himself about being a ruler. He has earned the right to rule the dog team.


The general tone of the team picked up immediately. It recovered its old-time solidarity, and once more the dogs leaped as one dog in the traces. At the Rink Rapids two native huskies, Teek and Koona, were added; and the celerity with which Buck broke them in took away François's breath.

Narrator, Chapter 4

When Buck mutinies against Spitz's leadership, the dog team gets unruly. However, when Buck takes charge, the team works smoothly. Buck quickly teaches two new dogs how to function in the team, which shows his strength as a leader. Each dog on the team has a sense of belonging and playing a necessary role.


This was the first time Buck had failed, in itself a sufficient reason to drive Hal into a rage. He exchanged the whip for the customary club. Buck refused to move under the rain of heavier blows which now fell upon him.

Narrator, Chapter 5

The inexperienced Hal misuses violence by beating Buck. Buck knows much more about the wild than Hal. Buck knows he and his exhausted dog team need rest, and he has a sense of foreboding about what lies ahead. Hal is oblivious to all of this, and his ignorance will lead to disaster.


Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest. But as often as he gained the soft unbroken earth and the green shade, the love for John Thornton drew him back to the fire again.

Narrator, Chapter 6

Buck senses he belongs in two worlds: his primitive instincts tell him he belongs in the wild, but his love for Thornton tells him he belongs with this man and his somewhat civilized community. This dichotomy within Buck can be seen as a struggle between the "law of club and fang" and the "law of love and brotherhood."


It was the call, the many-noted call, sounding more luringly and compellingly than ever before. And as never before, he was ready to obey. John Thornton was dead. The last tie was broken. Man and the claims of man no longer bound him.

Narrator, Chapter 7

When Thornton dies, Buck resolves his struggle between the human community and the wild community of the wolf pack. Buck answers the call of the wild, breaking his ties with humans.


But he is not always alone. When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.

Narrator, Chapter 7

At the end of the novel, Buck has fully answered the call of the wild. He embraces his primordial instincts and becomes the leader of a wolf pack. Buck is fulfilling his destiny—one written within him by his primitive wolf ancestry.

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