The Call of the Wild

ISBN: 0809500973
ISBN 13: 9780809500970
By: Jack London

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About this book

Buck, a sturdy crossbreed canine (half St. Bernard, half Shepard), is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit...First published in 1903, "The Call of the Wild" is regarded as Jack London's masterpiece. Based on London's experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, "The Call of the Wild" is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike.

Reader's Thoughts


Definitely not just for young adults. I really enjoyed this book.


While reading this, there were four things bubbling in the chambers of my mind:(1) Charles Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest”(2) Nature vs. Nurture in psychology(3) The vampire movie I have seen.(4) Timbuktu, the dog in the novel of Paul AusterBuck used to be accustomed to living in an uncivilized place where he has no idea of how horrible life is, for his masters are indifferent to him. Unfortunately, exposed to the law of club and fang, he needs intestinal fortitude, ignoring his ‘pure conscience “; rather, he will learn to follow his “primordial instinct” to fight off the biological motives. Apparently, Jack London anthropomorphized the dogs to illustrate how a man’s moral is developed. In fact, I learned that Jack London was primarily influenced by Charles Darwin‘s The Origin of the Species; and John Milton's Paradise Lost. By virtue of these books, he may have had an idea of how to put his experiences in Alaska into such an unforgettable classic.Since I have background in psychology, the ad infinitum debate about whether a man is developed by Nature or Nurture appears to be one of the themes of this novel. In the story, Jack London may have wanted to expound that a man, in the image of Buck, is built; that a man could be a blank sheet; that a man could be barbarian in origin. Buck in the story is dictated by his primordial instinct. In fact, London seemed to have used symbols to represent two kinds of dogs: uncivilized hard dogs in the North and civilized soft dogs in the South.Absurdly speaking , the book reminded me of vampires, especially the Filipino movie” VAMPIRA” . In the movie, when the moon is full, the protagonist played by a famous actress transforms into a vampire whether she likes it or not. Her vampire instinct to eat flesh of animals including human is unruly. In the novel, the moon could be the symbol of his primordial instinct. Since Buck has been civilized by the virtue of his new master’s genuine love, there are times, however, that the “call of the wild” still specters him. Once to be tempted, he will overcome it for the good memories of his new master. Unfortunately, at the end, Buck backslides to his past when his “civilized community “is “annihilated’ by a group of Yaheets. Does it mean that under dystopic or disintegrated circumstances, a man could forget his feelings in the name of survival? Gee, this classic could be an interesting term paper in the context of other fields of studies. I believe that Jack London missed something.kkk Nevertheless, I appreciated it a lot. ^^Literally, the novel must deal with what a world of dogs is like, for us to come to the realization that dogs are not far different from us. They should be treated like a human being. (Uh-oh! I believe some readers have had ideas of dog life, so I recommend TIMBUKTU by Paul Auster. )In the Philippines, we have the laws on animal rights- which particularly put a great deal of stress on domesticated animals- strictly prohibit any body to make bad use of them. On the other hand, I guess in Alaska at that time may not have been aware of this reality, for dogs were used for sledding. But what struck me at the end is that LOVE is such a powerful element to make a big difference to our lives. ^___________^

Stuart Aken

I come late to this classic, which I gather is intended as a children’s story. Mind you, I suspect a few of the modern generation might have difficulty with some of the language and sentence structure. Be that as it may, the story is rightly a classic: the language is beautiful, the ideas, which are wide-ranging, are wonderfully expressed with little sign of authorial intrusion. The central theme, of the reversion of the civilised into the primitive, is cleverly illustrated as Buck slowly learns from experience that, when it comes to simple survival, many of the trappings of civilisation are just that. There is no room for sentimentality in the extremes of the wild.I don’t generally enjoy books that rely on anthropomorphism (the obvious exception is Orwell’s Animal Farm) but this is a story that works in spite of the humanisation of the central canine character. It says something about the writing skills of the author that the presentation of the dog as a creature capable of human reasoning is barely noticeable for most of the story. The tale itself dashes along at a pace that matches that of the husky teams it follows. There is nothing wasted, everything we are told is germane to the story.One of my quibbles relates to the characters. This is a male-centred story and several archetypal males are represented, giving a sense of balance to the way men are depicted. Unfortunately, only one woman finds a place in the tale and she is stereotypical, insubstantial and without any real personality. A story intended for children needs to express the positive and negative aspects of both genders in equal measure. Any child reading this book will glean an impression of women as feeble, insecure, troublesome and hysterical. No examples of strong women, no honour or nobility here for the female of the species. It is, of course, of its time. But I do wonder to what extent it has been responsible for imposing a general prejudice against women in the psyche of some American males.One other negative aspect that troubles me relates to the depiction of killing (albeit as a method of obtaining food) as something both desirable and admirable, rather than as a necessary evil. I suspect this may have had some effect on the hunting fraternity in the States, giving them permission to enter the wild and shoot animals for trophies. For Buck, the act of killing is an essential for survival. For the modern hunter, it is reduced to the element of ‘sport’; though how any rational being can associate the use of a gun against a wild animal with sport I cannot comprehend.All that said, I enjoyed this book. I’d certainly recommend it to any adult reader who has not had the pleasure. But I’d caution against the exposure of children to the story.


What if you were torn away from your home, your life, your family, and everything that was ever familiar to you, and got thrown into harsh, life threatening situations? In Jack London’s book “Call of the Wild”, it shows that anyone or thing can be taken from its surroundings and thrown into a world where it has to learn to survive. Buck, a domestic dog from Santa Clara Valley is forced into the Yukon because of mans need for money, gold and sled dogs . His life starts to change in a hurry and he has to use everything he has to keep himself alive. Struggling through the harsh Yukon wilderness, Buck’s life is threatened on a daily basis and he’s thrown into many exciting but harshly challenging situations. In this book, there's a lot of charachterization towards Buck, mostly defined by his actions and the choices he makes. The tone of this novel the majority of the time is and air of excitment and intensity. Though the language isnt too modern, since this book was written in 1903, it defnitely works for the genre. I really enjoyed how the main charachter is not human, because if it was i honestly dont think i'd like this book nearly as much. I also thought it was a good choice of London not to give Buck thoughts such as "Well i thought that..." but instead described his way of thinking. One thing i didn't like about this book is that sometimes it takes a while to get to the point, but that didnt happen very often. “Call of the Wild” is definitely a book I would recommend to my friends.


the descriptions of violence put upon animals was very disturbing,but I thought the book was excellent.


Novels narrated from a dog’s point of view are rarities. I distinctly remember reading two, Fluke by the late great James Herbert, and Cujo by Stephen King (only partly from the dog’s POV). If the author’s talent is up to the task, it is quite a nice change in perspective (though I am sure you wouldn't want to read fiction from a canine perspective all the time unless you are a dog, even actual dogs don't want to do that, I have asked a few).Set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, The Call of the Wild is narrated in the third person but almost entirely from the dog’s point of view. The protagonist is Buck, a huge St. Bernard-Scotch Collie. (half St. Bernard and half sheepdog). At the beginning of the book he is living a happy life as a pet of a judge but is soon stolen by the judge’s gardener and sold to dog traders, one of whom beat the stuffing out of him to teach him his place in the world (as the trader sees it). After this traumatic and transformative experience he is soon sold off to Canadian mail dispatchers. The story of his life as a sled dog is quite harrowing, featuring a fight for supremacy among his teammates, being sold off again to inhumane ignoramus and almost starving to death. Buck goes through the wringer and survives admirably thanks to his tenacity, cunning, fortitude and general badassery. The title of the book The Call of the Wild only becomes a theme toward the end of the book, but I won’t spoil the book by elaborating on this.The book is generally very well written though but there is very little dialog, as the dogs are not Disneyfied / anthromorphosised talking animals. The hardship and abuse endured by the sled dogs is quite harrowing. If you think you’ve got it bad try being a sled dog (though if you are reading this the contingency is an unlikely one). The author Jack London clearly has a lot of affinity for dogs and feels a moral outrage at the abusive treatment they often receive from human beings. He also has an insight into dogs’ mentality as this passage demonstrates: “But the club of the man in the red sweater had beaten into him a more fundamental and primitive code. Civilized, he could have died for a moral consideration, say the defence of Judge Miller's riding-whip; but the completeness of his decivilization was now evidenced by his ability to flee from the defence of a moral consideration and so save his hide.”“In short, the things he did were done because it was easier to do them than not to do them.” Ah! I wish my dog was so eloquent! The process of “decivilization” of Buck is an fascinating one, in order to survive he has to turn feral and it later transpires that Buck has some kind of primordial instinct for turning wild. That said he also has an almost conflicting desire to be loved by a human master, and for doing the best job he can as a sled dog, and later as a bodyguard and companion. What he also has above all other characters in this book is an indomitable will to live, and eventually to be free.If you love dogs this is a novel not to be missed. It is quite short, only about 170 pages, and there is an excellent free audiobook version from Librivox, very well read by Mark F. Smith (thank you sir!).

Jan Rice

This should have been on the "read-in-my-youth" shelf but actually read in the early 2000s before I began keeping lists, let's guestimate 2003. I had the audiobook and listened during the commute. Judging from tidbits I picked up from The Great Gatsby, when The Call of the Wild was written, there would have been just the American East (sophisticated? decadent?) and the West, that is, before our current situation of the two coasts and the "fly-over zone" (vs. the heartland--take your pick); the book's setting is the rough-around-the-edges West. It is just a great story, as exciting and involving as a Harry Potter story is in our current times, with a great, idyllic, ending--not very realistic, maybe, but, oh, so satisfying nevertheless.


This is a book I just completed with my remedial English class for high school juniors and seniors. I have read this book, oh, perhaps a dozen times and never tire of it. This particular version is a thrift version, only 65 pages, but the language is the same, no simplified language which would destroy the effect of the book; some of the text has been deleted which the "thrift committee" (is there such a thing?) decided is not critical to the story line. Of course I prefer the full length book but, after all, this is a remedial class for students who prefer to run from books and [maybe] ask questions later.One student told me, "I hate Call of the Wild,"Me: WHAT!?Student: I hate it.Me: Well off to the Guillotine with ya!What's not to like about London's Call of the Wild? It's a dog story which attracts readers of all ages, it is beautifully written thus attracting the literary crowd, and it is festooned with references to human & canine origins therein drawing from history/anthropology enthusiasts. Fact is, Call of the Wild is perhaps my FAVORITE book of all time. It is really the story of US. At least about US since the Agricultural Revolution (AR) some 10,000 years ago. The human-canine relationship is primordial having its orgin at the onset of the AR or somewhat beforehand. The instinctual feelings that Buck experiences - delivered to us via the brillance of London's evocative pen - are shadows of ancient events & reactions that we/us/people can relate to, for we also undergo them on extended stays in the wilderness. Further, the bond that develops between Jim Thorton and Buck is one to be appreciated and showcased as it is the best of who and what we are. Three Rs: Thorton provides RELIEF to Buck out of mercy, both Thorton and Buck experience RENEWAL through their mutual care-taking, and both develop and refine the best of who they are through their RELATIONSHIP. Relief, renewal, and relationship - Call of the Wild is trully a TIMELESS tale - and one that we ought read at various times in our life cycle.If I could give this book 6 stars, I would.

Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)

Aah.! If Buck was a man,he would have been one of the most eligible bachelors in literature.. The journey of a dog to his destiny,which in this case is a walk back to the past,is what's this story is about. It could be interpreted as the story of a man-his journey towards his destiny. There are many things in this story that might make you think that way. Like -the call of the future(in this case the call of the wild) -the recognition or remembering of the power within(Buck recognizing the wildness within him) -the qualities required of one who is in true pursuit of his destiny(faith in himself,ability to hold on to something,meticulous planning,leadership).The pride and power of Buck is so nicely described that you can see the picture of the formidable and ferocious dog. It was a wonderful story,rich in imagination and original in presentation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.PS: In the beginning I was thinking that may be this story is like 'Animal farm',seeing the groups of dogs like the group of pigs in that story. When the story progressed,I understood how stupid I was. :)

Owen Curtsinger

Call of the Wild is a great book, but it's one of those books that needs the context of the time in which it was written in order for it to be a great book. Personally, I also consider On the Road and Catcher in the Rye, as well as the film Easy Rider to be in this category of great works that don't carry their magic beyond their own era. So reading Call of the Wild, with it's glossy prose and rough generalizations, might read as a flop to many of us today. But it becomes at least a little more interesting when it's read as London supposedly intended it--as an allegorical tale about both society and his own upbringing and yearnings. I'm not a Jack London scholar, but from various snippets I've read about him, he was apparently a fervent socialist, but inspired more by the act of revolution than of its actual political ideologies. Call of the Wild can thus be read as his call for society to unshackle itself from the political and economic systems that he saw as oppressive, and through Buck's eyes we see the fickleness of all that pass through the Yukon in search of gold. Buck's "call" to leave humanity and run with his ancestors can be seen as London's bid for violent upheaval and a yearning to return to a simpler way of life. Well. Anyways, all that doesn't make it a better book to read, but it may make for a slightly more interesting read. I originally read this when I was very young, though, and without the context, I'm not sure why I loved it so much. Something about dogs and wolves and savagery and adventure in the far North must be appealing or something to this young boy's mind....weird!

Greg Linster

Call of the Wild is considered by many to be Jack London's greatest novel. It is a grim and harsh depiction of the bitter realities of life during the days of the Alaska Gold Rush. The story is about a dog named Buck who is kidnapped from a pleasant life in Santa Clara, CA. He was abused and beaten to the point of almost dying, but a man named John Thornton ultimately saves him. Buck is used as a sled dog and quickly learns the laws of nature that define his new existence. The competition amongst the other sled dogs is ruthless, violent, and fierce, but Buck emerges as an alpha male. Buck stayed faithful to his new master until his death. In the end, Buck answered "the call of the wild" to join a pack of wolves and escape man's world.There are, of course, many parallels that can be drawn to the modern human existence. For Buck, the choice was between living in man's world or answering the beckoning call of nature. Humans face the same struggles in modern life too. For instance, is it better to live a corporate soul sucking drone-like existence or answer the call of the wild to be free?

Duffy Pratt

I read this when I was a kid, and then again a few years ago, and this makes my third reading. That's quite a bit for a book that I have many problems with. The main problem I have is that I always get the feeling that London let his prejudices get in the way of his observations. As far as I know, this book and White Fang pretty much invented the genre of books being told from the animal's point of view. But it's not really the animal point of view we get. Rather, we get the viewpoint of the animal if the animal had a thoroughgoing belief in social darwinism.Buck moves from one human society to another. He starts with an indifferent and benign owner. From there, he gets introduced to a more "primitive" element when taken and sold up north as a sled dog. Here, he gets broken by whip and club, and learns the law of kill or be killed. From there, he moves on to a couple of sled teams, perfects his position according to that law. Then, he gets transferred to an even more cruel, and incompetent owner, one bound to kill the sled team and the people around him. Rescued, he falls in love with his next owner, and then he faces the call and becomes completely wild.A few problems: the law of wolf packs and dog sled teams has very little to do with what London describes here. Wolves don't kill each other. Dogs don't wait until the end of the day to then correct other dogs about errors they made on the sled team. The system of punishment that London ascribes as primitive law is very much a creation of people's misunderstanding. I don't doubt that London actually saw abused dogs in Alaska, but he also mis-interpreted what he saw.Another problem is the whole idea of Buck returning to the wild. The dog is a St. Bernard mix. It's virtually impossible to imagine this kind of dog becoming part of a wolf pack. He's basically a different species. Long ago, some wolves were brave enough to scavenge around nomadic people, and to stay in the vicinity when the nomads got close (kind of like pigeons in a park). The ones that fled stayed wolves. The ones with the genetic makeup to allow them to stay near man became, over time, dogs. Dogs are genetically different than wolves, and the difference comes from a fundamental difference in the fight or flight response. It is just as impossible to make an individual dog wild as it is to tame an animal caught in the wild. The idea is fanciful, but it does not happen.From a narrative point of view, it makes no sense to me that Buck's strongest calls to the wild happen when he has finally found an owner that he truly loves. If anything, from both a natural and a narrative point of view, this relationship would strengthen Buck's ties to men, not weaken them.I've got alot of affection for this book, and like White Fang even more, but for all it's grit, I still get the feeling that this book is closer to Disney than it is to true observation. It owes more to London's imagination of what a dog might think then it does to any serious study of dogs.


Invalid reasons for not reading this:1.) Hundred-year-old-books are written in an inaccessible style.---The Call of the Wild has very accessible style, with beautiful prose and imagery---beautiful prose and imagery that's light and very accessible.2.) I don't like dog stories.---This is a Buck story. Sure, he's a dog, but this isn't a dog story. It's Buck's story. And he's a complex, sympathetic character. He just happens to be a dog.3.) What do I care about the Klondike gold rush?---Don't matter. The story's about Buck, I said. The gold rush is just the outline, background.4.) Dog stories always end with the dog dying. And no, thank you, dammit. I'm still getting over Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows, and I read those almost thirty years ago.---Spoiler alert: the dog doesn't die.I've spent the last day kicking myself for never having read Jack London before. Especially for not having read this until this point in my life. Go, Buck!


First off I should say that London is a great writer. This is the first book I've read of his. His description of the Alaskan terrain is incredible. I have never been to Alaska but when I read this book I could picture it in my head very clearly. However, that does not take away what I think of the story itself. It wasn't bad. It was interesting, but I could not seem to grasp exactly what London's point was. Was it animal cruelty? Was it the wild should be kept wild? Or is there some hidden social message? There are numerous other themes that I could guess at but I couldn't pinpoint the particular one London was trying to express. It did get me thinking but in more of a jumble of thougts instead of just focused on one.There are parts where the narrator (third person) seems very detached as if he were giving a documentary on Buck. Now Buck is an amazing dog, no doubt about it. He goes against all odds and learns how to survive the wild northland leaving his legend. But nevertheless he is a dog and maybe I'm bias since I usually only read books about humans but I could only see Buck as a dog. Don't get me wrong, I was cheering him on the whole time. I wanted him to have his happily ever after but the ending didn't give me that satisfaction. Maybe it's a happily ever after for a dog but not for me.


Savage, compelling, manipulative, simple, poetic...These adjectives all apply, but they do not save the book from its negative traits. Jack London was a natural storyteller, but he was also a racist and a sexist. I thought it was my imagination at first, but after some research I realize that those accusations are common. I mention this fact because it distracted me from the story. The imagery is rich, the spirituality moving, and by the end, I was completely enthralled by Buck's adventures. It's just a bumpy ride along the way.

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