A review by leandrathetbrzero
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

challenging dark emotional sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


For the first four years of his life, Buck has lived comfortably alongside the Judge as the king of his own domain in the Southland. At the end of each day he curls up at the Judge’s feet by the fireplace. This blissful life is taken from him one night when Buck is stolen, sold, and moved up north to become a sled dog. He is introduced early to what he dubs “the law of club and fang” after being brutally beaten by the man in the red sweater. In the following years, Buck is sold multiple times, battles with other dogs to live another day, and the wild part of him – inherited from his long dead ancestors – is reawakened. This story is a brutal, heart-wrenching story of a dog who is too often equated to an object or commodity, and rarely as a fellow living creature. The Call of the Wild brought me to tears, and it does not surprise me that this book is a classic today.

Buck is such a compelling character to follow. The narration is third-person (or third-dog, in this case) limited, so the reader becomes well-acquainted with Buck’s thoughts and understanding of the world around him. I loved how London adapts his writing of imagery or society to fit the dog’s comprehension of it. For instance, California is called the Southland, Canada and Alaska are the Northland, and the brutal life of dog and master that Buck is introduced to becomes know as the law of club and fang, meaning that any man with a club must be obeyed. It pulls the reader further out of the prim and proper life of civilization, and it pushes us into the wilderness where the rules are far different. My heart ached for Buck as he slowly began to forget his old life, the one of comfort and trust, but I was grateful when he finally found John Thornton, the only master he truly loved.

While I am glad I read this book, I would say it is not for those highly sensitive to violence and mistreatment of animals, or anyone squeamish when reading about wounds or blood. I was very surprised by the many visceral scenes of violence. Many dogs perish in these pages, as do a few humans and other wildlife, but the dogs’ deaths were especially hard-hitting. The death match between Buck and rival Spitz was almost too much for me to read, and I cried at the death of Dave, a fellow sled dog of Buck since the beginning. I was quite upset during the scene where Buck’s brief time with the inexperienced family moving up north ended because I thought a few more dogs could have been saved, even though this led him to his life with John Thornton. As well done as The Call of the Wild is, I would not reread it willingly just because of the never-ending violence within its pages. An impactful book to read once! 

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