The Call of the Wild (1903) by Jack London is a wonderfully crafted and thought-provoking short read.
The story is told from the POV of the protagonist Buck who is a St. Bernard and a German Shepard cross. He lives in Santa Clara Valley on a ranch. Near the beginning of the story he is kidnapped from the wealthy family he resides with and ends up as a sledge dog alongside a number of other dogs in Alaska. A lot of the story takes place in Yukon, Canada in the era of the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s. As time progress the dogs find themselves passed from human owner/s to human owner/s and most of these owners out there are ignorant and unfeeling which results in the deaths of many dogs. Buck must conquer the harshness and neglect to survive. But he is a brave dog with great survival instincts and that shows through very clearly in the book. But he does find that he likes one human John Thornton, a gold hunter, whose life he saves. He grows to like John very much and this brings an inner conflict into Buck as on one hand he wishes to be John’s pet dog but on the other hand he has a calling to return to the wild and to his freedom and independence.
This book presents many important issues. Issues like how humans use animals for a variety of reasons and show a cruelty and a superiority over animals because they wish to be powerful and above other creatures. There is many scenes of animal cruelty in this book which are very distressing. Although I do understand why the author would include these scenes. He wanted to show to people exactly what was been done, give an honest portrayal and not sweep under the carpet what was been done. It’s horrible to read but it’s powerful because it stirs up your own passions against this sort of thing and places a magnifying glass on the cruelty these dogs face by these sick and strange humans. But the dogs are not going to let them away with it and thus they begin to fight back against this regime. There is also underlying social issues in this book. This is a subtle secondary important issue dealt with in this book. The idea of someone being trapped into what many deem social norms and being harassed and destroyed when they don’t conform to these so-called social norms. The idea that the dogs are revolting against this and searching for a faraway freedom with every piece of their being also ties into this whole metaphor.
The descriptive writing of the dogs’, especially Buck’s, inner emotions is excellently written and shows their intelligence and feelings beautifully. The descriptions of the landscape and nature is very well done too and gives you a vivid image as you read. The book is quite a hard read for anyone with a heart, especially people who love animals. It leaves you with the overwhelming and passionate feeling to cherish all the wonderful dogs of this world, to treat them with the love, kindness, dignity and respect they deserve and to value their contributions to this world and them in general.
A very well-crafted book.
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