I’ve read a couple short stories by Jack London and I’ve really enjoyed his writing, especially when it comes to serious stories about man v. nature and our separation from the harsh realities of nature. This book, is perhaps his most famous, or at least I know I’ve seen it around a lot. It’s also a pretty short book, so I decided to pick it up and read it. It was probably my fault for not even looking up the plot, because all I knew about it going in was that it was about a dog…I made a massive mistake not mentally preparing myself for this book.
Page Count: 172
Synopsis: This story tells the tale of Buck, a dog kidnapped from his nice home in California to be sold as a sled dog into the brutal Alaskan wilderness during the gold prospecting surge. He must fight against the brutality of dogs, man, and nature alike to survive.
This is a brutal book, and if you are sensitive to dogs being hurt and killed, this book probably isn’t for you. On one hand, I absolutely loved this book and its important messages. On the other hand, I hated it because I love dogs and the thought of them being hurt is horrifying to me. London wrote this book after he saw how dogs were treated in this place and era, and he wanted to bring awareness to the abuse these animals were enduring for the greed of men as they sought gold. I won’t get into a lot of the gruesome details in this short book because it was definitely a lot for me.
Buck is introduced living with a wealthy family of a judge in California. He is half Saint Bernard (from his father) and half Scotch Collie. He is kidnapped by a worker of the family and sold into captivity as a sled dog, transported to Alaska. On the way, he is abused and beaten, but remains strong. He also fights with another dog, Spitz, for leadership of the pack of sled dogs, eventually killing Spitz after the other dog tries to kill him. He passes through several owners, always overcoming dangerous odds to survive.
Eventually, Buck is rescued by John Thornton, who cares for him and is kind. The two become extremely close, and Buck even saves Thornton several times. Even so, he feels the constant urge towards the wilderness, the call of the wild. He often goes running in the wilderness, feeling conflicted between his life with Thornton and his freedom in the wild. However, once after he is out in the wilderness, he returns home to find the native Indians have killed the entire camp where Thornton is, including several dogs and Thornton himself. It’s a horrific ending, and one which had me crying. Buck kills many of the Indians, and, after staying by his master’s body for some time, he finally hearing wolves calling for him and he goes into the wild forever with the wolves. His final tie to humanity left with Thornton’s death. The book ends with the Indians noticing brown in the color of wolves, and learning of the legend of a ghost wolf who still wanders the forest.
It’s an emotional read, especially considering my love of dogs. I don’t like seeing animals hurt, especially by humans. Besides Thornton, no one shows Buck kindness, which makes the ending even sadder, knowing the only person good kind to Buck dies.
Saying that, I loved the themes of this book. One theme is that even domesticated animals have something wild in them, that we should respect but understand. Also, that dogs are sensitive creatures, who once hurt will rarely trust again. I have seen so many dogs rescued who even in a happy family deal with the trauma of their past.
This book is a difficult one to read, but it is also a beautiful and moving story.
Have you read this book? I also know there is a new movie adaptation starring Harrison Ford which came out early this year, but I haven’t seen it and doubt I would be able to knowing how emotional I got just reading the book. Have you seen the movie? Does it look like something you could handle reading or watching? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,