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Critical essay on call of the wild

Critical Evaluation

In works such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang 1906and Jerry of the Islands 1917 London makes animals into compelling leading characters, as engaging and sympathetic as any human protagonists. His goal is not to make animals appear human, but to emphasize the hereditary connection that humans have with animals.

He is molded by the changes in his environment, thriving because he possesses the necessary genetic gifts of strength and intelligence to adapt to his mutable circumstances. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions.

The Call of the Wild Criticism

Buck, however, does not experience only raw nature. With John Thornton he returns to a more civilized existence. The Call of the Wild begins in a domesticated environment and ends in the wild.

  • Being an animal, Buck can completely surrender to his primitive half;
  • But the beginnings of any genealogy are necessarily turbulent and difficult, and we must restrict ourselves in the present introduction to the contentious literary-critical debates that have engaged The Call of the Wild with the understanding that they offer a point of departure for other more detailed inquiries into the novel and its historical milieu;
  • Both works provide important information on original editions of the text as well as secondary materials, and each contributed to the critical excitement over London in the late 1960's to early 1970's;
  • The third reason stems from the fact that Frierson was a scholar of British Literature and his article places the debate over literary Naturalism in an international context; the article is a fine example of a careful engagement with scholarly traditions of other nations and how those have approached Jack London and the debates that are important to any understanding of his writings;
  • Ten more dissertations were written in the years 1983-1992.

Conversely, White Fang begins in nature and ends in civilization. The wild instinct still remains. In the end, Buck obeys the call of the wild. The Call of the Wild suggests that the reader draw a corollary between the divided nature of Buck and that of every human being. Inspired by Darwin, London believed in the evolutionary continuity between animals and human beings. If human beings evolved from animals, then what exists on a lower level in animals must hold true on a higher level for human beings.

London does not give Buck human qualities but suggests that animals and humans share common traits and experiences because of their evolutionary connection. Being an animal, Buck can completely surrender to his primitive half. For human beings the rift between nature and civilization is much more complicated. People cannot and should not revert completely to their animalistic ancestry.

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In White Fang, for example, human beings dominated by their primitive halves are degenerates and criminals. London deals more directly with this human struggle in The Sea-Wolf 1904suggesting that for humans a balance between the brutish and the civilized is best. No single philosophical system satisfied London, so he accepted bits and pieces of many different, even contradictory ideas. When the ideas of Darwin or Nietzsche fell short in his estimation, those of Karl Marx seemed attractive.

  • The most important source of scholarly articles on The Call of the Wild from 1967 until recently was the Jack London Newsletter;
  • The biographical criticism continued through other works of the inter-war period;
  • Ten more dissertations were written in the years 1983-1992;
  • Peter Schmitt's Back To Nature;
  • It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions.

From a Marxist perspective, Buck can be interpreted as a representative of the oppressed, subject to the whims of cruel masters and their corrupt use of power.

Under these brutal conditions Buck must do what he has to do to survive. He becomes a brute and a thief himself, struggling individually to fend for himself.

He cooperates with the other dogs, becoming productive and working for the good of the group. Under such conditions, the primitive brute, the evolutionary residue of millions of generations, takes control out of necessity.

With a less oppressive system, cooperation can flourish; the civilized half is nurtured and is able to contain the brute.