Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Call of the Wild

Title:  The Call of the Wild
Author:  Jack London
Publication Information:  Macmillan. 1903. 232 pages. (original
ISBN:  None for the original Multiple others.

Book Source:  I read this book through the Serial Reader app.

Opening Sentence:  "Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from  Puget Sound to San Diego."

Favorite Quote:  "He had lessoned from Spitz, and from the chief fighting dogs of the police and mail, and knew there was no middle course. He must master or be mastered; while to show mercy was a weakness. Mercy did not exist in primordial life. It was misunderstood for fear, and such misunderstandings made for death. Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten, was the law; and this mandate, down out of the depths of Time, he obeyed."

My original memory of The Call of the Wild by Jack London is high school English. At that time, my student brain revolted against the idea. This was the story about a dog and his self-actualization. The discussion of the lessons of the book and the emotions of the book escaped me. This was an assignment I had to get through. That was all. It was a "classic" because I was told it was a classic. The teenage me was clearly not the reader for the book. However, even at that time, it left enough of an impact that I remember it still.

Recently, the book has made the headlines for the new movie version recently released. Although I have not seen the movie, I have seen the previews and seen the "PG" rating. Clearly, the movie turns the story into a family-friendly adventure set amid the beautiful frontier scenery.

That brings me back to the original book. The story is about Buck, a loved dog, growing up in sunny California. The Alaskan gold rush creates a market for dogs of breeds that can survive the harsh conditions and do the work required. Buck is stolen and sold. So begins his Alaskan saga. He experiences hardship, abuse, treachery but also love and caring. With each passing day, he also experiences the call of the wild - a calling to his animal instincts away from the bounds of human connection. Sometimes, he responds. Sometimes, he is kept from it by force. Sometimes, he himself returns out of love.

For a story about a dog, the emotions and the bonds that anchor us make this a very human tale. Buck learns the lesson of eat or be eaten. "In short, the things he did were done because it was easier to do them than not to do them." However, even for him, actions are exacerbated by anger and tempered by love. In that, Buck becomes a memorable character - dog or human.

It is always interesting to reread books. It defines for me how much my reaction to a book is determined by where I am in my life and all the experiences that have brought me to that point. This book is no different.

This time around, this book is not just a story about a dog. Nor is it the sanitized version I envision the movie is. It is, however, an amazing tale that conveys adventure and emotion and leaves me with thoughts of nature vs nurture and of determining or becoming who you are meant to be. In short, it is a story I have remembered from high school days, but it is this reading and my reaction that will now stay with me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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