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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 269

  The Call of the Wild, summary as well as summit of London’s achievement, is the story of a dog stolen from civilization to draw a sledge in Alaska, eventually to escape from human control and go back to the wild as leader of a pack of wolves. As in most animal tales the narrative is sentimentalized. Buck has a psychology which he derives too obviously from his human creator; learns the law of the brute wilderness too quickly and too consciously; dreams too definitely of the savage progenitors from whom he inherits, by way of atavism, his ability to contend with a new world. The pathetic fallacy, however, has behind it a reality in London’s own experience which lends power to the drama of Buck’s restoration to the primitive. In something of this fashion the young tramp had learned the hard rules of the road; in something of this fashion the gold-seeker had mastered the difficulties of the Klondike face to face with a pitiless nature which made no allowance for his handicaps and which apparently desired the destruction of the men who had ventured into the wilderness. Out of his experience he had built up a doctrine concerning the essential life of mankind, and out of his doctrine he had shaped this characteristic tale. But the doctrine is not excessively in evidence, and the experience contributes both an accurate lore and an authentic passion. The narrative is as spare as an expedition over the Chilkoot Pass; it is swift and strong, packed with excitement and peril. Moreover, it has what almost none of Jack London’s “red blood” rivals had, and what he later deprived himself of by his haste and casualness: a fine sensitiveness to of by his haste and casualness: a fine sensitiveness to landscape and environment, a robust, moving, genuine



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