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Motifs And Theme In Jack London's The Call Of The Wild

Decent Essays
A Story of Adaptation and Survival:

An Analysis of Motifs and Theme in The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild, one of Jack London’s best novels, was published in 1903 yet still holds the number thirty-five spot on a list of one hundred best novels. The novel was so popular, the first 10,000 copies sold immediately, and consequently, it was published in forty-five different languages for sale throughout the world. Revolving around a dog named Buck, this story tells how Buck was ripped from his Santa Clara Valley home and placed into a cold, harsh, and snowy environment. In order to survive this hazardous setting, Buck must use his wits and keen instincts. Throughout this epic adventure, Buck constantly shows just how quickly he can learn.
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Buck puts his learning ability to use while traveling throughout the Yukon as a sled dog(Magill, ed. 1147). One action that has shown Buck’s learning ability is when he digs a hole to sleep in at night(London 23). On the first day of his journey, Buck finds himself freezing at night. When he sees that the other dogs dig themselves a hole to sleep in, Buck does the same from then on out. Another event that exemplifies this motif is when Buck gets tangled in his traces(25). Buck is new to pulling a dogsled, and when he is caught in his traces, he is reprimanded. Once that occurred, Buck learned not to get tangled again for the novel says, “...Buck took good care of the traces thereafter...”(25). Not only did Buck have to worry about pulling a sled, he had to worry about the other dogs. Buck had learned to thwart the “...savage dogs...” by means of body language(21-22). The novel states, “...he bristled his neck hair and snarled (for he was learning fast)...”(22). By learning to use this body language, Buck was able to avoid attacks from other dogs and therefore kept himself alive. The last and maybe the most important lesson of all is the idea that “...an unthinkable misdeed in his former state, can be the difference between life and death…” now(Labor, ed. 74). With this in mind, Buck…show more content…
While fighting the main antagonist, Spitz, Buck learns that rushing Spitz head on is too dangerous because he is continuously hurt when he attempts that method of attack. Realizing this, Buck breaks Spitz’s front legs and then goes for the kill(50). Buck continues to prove he can learn from his mistakes when he saves John Thornton from drowning(99-100). When Buck first dove into the river, he did not go straight into the stream, but by his second try, he saw his mistake, and corrected himself to save Thornton’s life. One final example of Buck learning from his mistakes is when he repeatedly gets his food stolen. Buck learns that he has to eat his food quicker than usual for if he did not, he would starve and most likely die(Magill, ed. 1148).
Overall, London effectively uses the motif of Buck’s ability to learn to show the importance and necessity of adapting to survive hazardous environments. Buck’s learning abilities are best shown while he is a sled dog, and while he is learning from his mistakes. Whether Buck is digging a hole to sleep in at night, or eating his food much quicker, Buck repeatedly shows adept learning. Through these actions London was able to show how important change can be and ultimately how it could save a
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