Call of the Wild Study Guide

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Call of the Wild By Jack London

The main character of Call of the Wild is Buck, a half-breed Saint Bernard and Scotch Shepherd dog; the combination makes him look like an exceptionally large wolf. Buck lives in Santa Clara Valley in northern California with his owner Judge Miller, living the comfortable life of a family pet. Until that all changes.

One day, Manuel, Judge Miller's gardener's assistant, dognaps Buck and sells him to a trainer of sled dogs, suddenly in great demand because of the discovery of "a yellow metal" in the Yukon Territories and the State of Alaska. Buck is forced to survive and adapt to the harsh brutality of his new life.

Buck works pulling sleds with other dogs, and begins to work his way up the pecking order, stealing food and fighting with other dogs. Buck's main rival, Spitz, fights like a devil, but as Buck's new owners learn, Buck is "two devils", fighting his way to the position of alpha dog.

Soon later, Buck is traded to a mail carrier, and then to a succession of incompetents. He is starved and beaten nearly to death, becoming nearly feral in the process. At last, he is acquired by John Thornton, a kind and loving owner who is abruptly killed by Yeehat Indians. Buck goes berserk and kills several members of the tribe before returning to the wild and fighting his way to alpha male of a local pack of wolves.

London writes about the world of Buck's new pack "the salient thing seemed fear" - in other words, being feared meant being powerful. Buck soon becomes something of a legend, called the Ghost Dog.

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