Call of the Wild

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For this year’s A to Z Blog challenge, I thought I’d draw back the curtain and explore the life and times of a bibliophile.  Care to join me?

I first read Jack London’s novel when I was eight or nine.  My early reading lists consisted almost exclusively of horse and dog novels.  What can I say?  I loved animals (still do).

I’m not going to lie; Call of the Wild, disturbed me greatly.  The idea of a loved family dog being stolen from his own front porch, and by someone he knew just broke my young heart.  Just the idea of coming home one day, and finding that my beloved Sooty Cat was gone was enough to make me cry.  My cat did run away shortly after reading this book, and, yes, I was nigh on inconsolable.  But whenever I saw a young black cat wandering through the trees near the apartment complex where I lived, I couldn’t help but think of Buck’s offspring running through the Yukon.

In much the way Black Beauty did, Call of the Wild informed my ideas of compassion and kindness, particularly towards animals.  It showed me the darker aspects of human nature: greed, cruelty, selfishness.  I left Call of the Wild without the encouragement, the sense of redemption and hope that Black Beauty had gifted me with, but there was something about the telling of the story that I found compelling.

And yet, having said that, the idea that Buck eventually found his place in a world so vastly different from the life he’d known, that his intelligence, courage, devotion, and instinct could serve him well in a harsh environment – these things I found encouraging.

I grew up in the military, moving from place to place every couple of years or so, and the places my father was stationed couldn’t have been more different from one another.  No, I never had to fight for my life, as Buck did, but I did have to rely on my own strength of character and intelligence to adapt to each place I called home, however long that was.

Over time, I grew to respect and even admire Jack London’s style.  The way he contrasted the life Buck led in Southern California with the harsh realities of the Yukon.  His use of imagery, his uncluttered narration.  It took me longer to appreciate and interpret his use of imagery, but it’s something I still find distinctive, and memorable.

I never read much of London’s work beyond Call of the Wild (although his short story “To Build a Fire” remains a favourite), because I’m not drawn to wilderness stories in quite that way.  I don’t have as much of a romantic view of the purity of the wilderness, or of the unforgiving way it tests one’s worthiness to be a part of it.  I still find the work memorable, and though I doubt I will read it again, it’s still a work that changed who I am as a reader, and as a writer.

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9 thoughts on “Call of the Wild

  1. My 4th grade teacher, Miss Berger, read to us every day after lunch recess. Call of the Wild was one of the books she introduced to us. Since then, I’ve remembered the scene where Buck is so willing to jump off the cliff to please his master.

    You might want to read White Fang. It’s basically the opposite of Call of the Wild ….

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  2. Jinx– I share your love of Jack London. He was local to my area. Even now, I’m researching a piece on him involving Mendocino County history. I read Call of the Wild at around the same age and overseas. I also love his early stories about his time as an oyster robber and troublemaker in San Francisco and Oakland. Enjoying your series.

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  3. I have to confess I have never read any of Jack London’s writing, but you make Call of the Wild sound like I should read it. I have always been a reader of all things, but my favorite is Boxcar Children a series my fifth grade teacher read to us. I guess, I was more into people than animals. Anyway, am enjoying your series.

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    • You can blame introversion and the fact that I often didn’t have kids my own age to play with. Animals, however, always seemed to be around.

      I never read Boxcar Children, but I may have to find out what I’ve been missing.

      Thank you, so much, for reading!

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