Essay title: The Call of the Wild
Adventure novel SettingNorthland (Alaska); the goldrush of the 1890s Principal CharactersBuck, a large, intelligent and well-bred dogSpitz, a cruel lead sled dogJohn Thornton, Buck's Northiand master Buck, a huge four-year-old Scottish Shepherd-Saint Bernard cross-breed, lived a life of ease at Judge Miller's Santa Clara Valley estate.
As the judge's loyal companion, working with his sons, and guarding his grandchildren, Buck ruled over all things – humans included. Combining his mother's intelligence with the size and strength of his father, Buck became the undisputed leader of all the dogs on the estate. At this time, gold had been found in Alaska, and thousands of men were rushing to the Northland. They wanted dogs, dogs like Buck.
One night, Manuel, the estate's gardener, who felt he was not earning enough to support both his family and his gambling habits, took Buck for a walk to the railroad station. There, money was exchanged, a rope was placed around Buck's neck, and his life in the civilized world had come to an end. For two days and two nights Buck traveled northward in a baggage carrier. Caged, with no food or water, his placid disposition changed to that of a raging fiend. In Seattle, Buck was met by a man in a red sweater, holding a club.
As Buck came charging out of the opened crate the man cruelly beat him into submission. Buck had learned his first lesson: he stood no chance against a man with a club. Buck, along with other dogs, was purchased by Francois and Perrault, dispatchers for the Canadian government, and transported by ship to Alaska. Buck soon came to respect his French Canadian masters. But life among the dogs was savage; no law existed but that of fang and force. The first day, Buck looked on as one of his shipmates, downed in a fight, was savagely killed by the anxious pack of dogs.
Thus he learned that in the event of a fight, he must always stay on his feet. Spitz, the sly-eyed and powerful lead dog of the sled team, took pleasure in these disputes. Dogs being slashed to ribbons seemed to amuse Spitz, making Buck hate him from the beginning.
Buck came to know his teammates: which dogs were approachable, and which to leave alone. He learned the necessary skills of a sled dog, which included digging under the snow at night for warmth, surviving on far less food than he was used to, stealing food from other dogs, and the knack for pulling a load. His body became hardened. And, over time, those instincts once possessed by his ancient ancestors sprang to life within him.
The domesticated gencrations'softness fell from Buck, and the wilderness wolf emerged. As time passed, Buck coveted the position of lead dog. He found that his size and cunning allowed him to come between Spitz and the shirkers, those that the cruel dog would have otherwise punished. With Buck protecting them, the pack lost its fear of Spitz, and discipline broke down. The dogs no longer worked as a team.
Francois and Perrault became furious with the lack of order and the loss of time spent separating skirmishing animals. One night Buck saw his chance, and a deathfight began. Spitz was a practiced fighter who felt a bitter rage toward Buck, but as the battle continued, Spitz slowly lost ground. With a final rush, Buck knocked his enemy to the snow and the eager pack moved in for the kill. Though his masters beat him severely, Buck refused to be harnessed until he was given the lead position. He willingly accepted the demands of supremacy, and where judgement, quick-thinking and action were required, showed himself superior to all. With Buck in the lead, the team picked up and became as one, moving smoothly over the snow on a record run from Dawson to Skaguay.
Buck's name soon became legendary. In Skaguay, Francois and Perrault received orders to relinquish the team to a Scotch half-breed, and after only three days rest the team was back in the traces and headed for Dawson. It was a strenuous trip. The once-proud, confident dogs arrived short of weight, in poor condition and needing at least ten days to recuperate. Nonetheless, only two days later they were again out on the trail headed back to Skaguay. A heavier sled combined with bad w cather made the going slow.
At night, Buck would lie near the fire and dream of Judge Miller's big house, the great fight with Spitz, and his hunter ancestors. A wildness, long held in check, began to surface.