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The Call of the Wild | Study Guide

Jack London

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The Call of the Wild | Symbols


Buck's Harness

The straps that connect Buck to the dogsled team shift from a symbol of submission to dominance and then to freedom as Buck's situation changes. After Buck's kidnapping, the harness emphasizes Buck's shift in position from dominance at Judge Miller's to a position of subservience as he is forced to pull the sled for the prospectors. However, after Buck dethrones Spitz and takes over as the leader of the dog team, the harness comes to symbolize his authority to lead the pack. Finally, when John Thornton cuts away Buck's harness, Buck discovers a freedom in being Thornton's companion rather than his servant.

Mercedes's Belongings

Mercedes's misunderstanding of her environment is symbolized by the way she packs her belongings for the trip. She overloads the sled with belongings that have no value in the wild. The value of an object in the wild is based on its use or purpose. Mercedes brings objects that have value only in civilization, where objects are evaluated by their positive reflections on their owners. Because Mercedes does not understand this distinction, she causes her own death as the overpacked sled becomes too heavy for the ice to bear. The wild does not support the folly of material wealth.

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