The “call” mentioned in the title of The Call of the Wild by Jack London is a very important part of the book. Beautiful and alluring, the call is from Buck’s ancestors, and it invites him to accept his destiny as wild, primordial beast. Throughout the book, Buck responds to “the call of the wild” in different ways, until he finally answers it at the very end of the book. “The call of the wild” is not simply metaphorical. It is a call that Buck hears and even sees throughout the book, urging Buck to embrace his destiny as a wild animal like his ancestors.
When he is traveling east with Thornton and goes into the woods, he hears “the call still sounding in the depths of the forest” and becomes “aware of wild yearnings and stirrings for he not what.” He feels “his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him.
” He sees visions of the primitive world of his ancestors and the cavemen who supposedly lived during that time. And none of the other sled dogs seem to hear the call. None of the other dogs howl with Buck or go into the woods with him to discover the wild animal inside themselves. Only the wolves at the end of the book, who have already embraced the call, hear and even sing to “the call of the wild.” “The call of the wild” is a call to Buck from his ancestors to become a primordial beast.
At the beginning of the book, Buck is the exact opposite of a primordial beast, but when he is dragged to the arctic, he is forced to adapt. Buck has to change himself and rely on his instincts. This is when he first hears “the call of the wild,” when he has to recover the instincts passed down to him from his ancestors in order to survive. The book says that his ancestors “quickened the old life in him, and the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks.” Buck isn’t completely instinct driven, however. When Buck fights Spitz, the book says, “he fought by instinct, but he could fight by head as well,” and earlier, “he was preeminently cunning, and could bide his time with a patience that was nothing less than primitive.” But Buck is still owned by a master, so he is not yet a primitive animal and has not yet fully answered the call of the wild.”
Buck responds to “the call of the wild” differently when he lives with John Thornton, in the chapter appropriately named, “For the Love of a Man.” Buck still retains the skills and instincts he recovered from his ancestors. However, the love he feels for Thornton keeps Buck from becoming a completely primordial beast and answering “the call of the wild.” Buck becomes a light-hearted man’s best friend instead of a wild animal. “Love, genuine passionate love, was his for the first time….love that was feverish and burning, that was adoration, that was madness.” But “the call of the wild” still sounds. When Thornton and Buck travel east to find gold, Buck hears the call even more strongly. It fills him with “a vague, sweet gladness,” and he pursues “the call into the forest, looking for it as though it were a tangible thing.” In the woods, Buck begins hunting and once again rediscovers his primordial self, but he is torn between being a wild dog in the forest and being a sled dog for John Thornton.
In the final chapter of the book, Buck embraces “the call of the wild.” One day, when Buck returns from the forest, he finds that “Yeehats” have invaded Thornton’s camp and killed him. In anger, he viciously tears apart the guilty Yeehats. Buck becomes “a live hurricane of fury, hurling himself upon them in a frenzy to destroy” and plunges “about in their very midst tearing, rending, destroying, in constant and terrific motion…” But with John Thornton dead, Buck has no place to turn to except to the wild. The book remarks, “John Thornton was dead. The last tie was broken. Man and the claims of man no longer bound him,” and later, “the call, the many-noted call, sounding more luringly and compellingly than ever before.” Buck goes off into the woods, answering “the call of the wild,” and later becomes a leader of a wolf pack who strikes fear into the hearts of Yeehats for many years. Buck transforms from a civilized dog to a vicious killer and wild animal. “The call of the wild” affects how the main character changes throughout the novel. In The Call of the Wild by Jack London, “The call of the wild” is not simply a title, but an important theme in the book.