The Call of the Wild

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Call of the Wild published in 1990.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Old longings nomadic leap,
Chafing at custom's chain;
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.

Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The epigraph is from a John O'Hara poem, in which O'Hara praises the wild for awakening long-dormant instincts in the consciousness. The poem suggests that all beings, whether they're "civilized" or not, have a fundamental longing for action and adventure--a longing that's repressed because of the influence of "custom." And yet the instinct for action and wildness (becoming feral, or "ferine") can be awakened suddenly and unexpectedly from its "brumal" (wintry) sleep. As we'll see, the poem is the perfect epigraph for London's novel. Just as one's primal instincts can be awoken by sudden, unexpected events, Buck is roused from his luxurious lifestyle by a sudden kidnapping that awakens his primal, wolfish instincts. Like the poem's progression, the novel itself is essentially Buck's transition from a dog of "custom" to one that is "ferine."

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During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in himself, was even a trifle egotistical, as a country gentleman sometimes become because of their insular situation. But he had saved himself by not becoming a mere pampered house-dog.

Related Characters: Buck
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

London establishes that Buck's life is idle and easygoing--he has little to do, no food to earn. His master, a prominent judge, is gentle and prosperous, so Buck is well-treated and well-fed.

Throughout the novel, London will draws comparisons between Buck the dog and human beings. Here, for instance, London compares Buck to an aristocrat, and the comparison is more insightful than it might seem at first. Like the aristocrats of Europe, Buck has a long, warlike past--the aristocrats, after all, used to be loyal soldiers of the king, but in recent centuries, they've allowed their luxurious lifestyles to suppress their talents for war. Buck, by the same token, is a dog, meaning that he's a descendant of wild, savage wolves. Buck has the instincts for violence and fighting, but because he's lived in luxury, his instincts have been mostly suppressed.

He was beaten (he knew that); but he was not broken. He saw once for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He learned the lesson, and in all his after life he never forgot it. That club was a revelation. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive lawÉ Again and again, as he looked at each brutal performance, the lesson was driven home to Buck: a man with a club was a lawgiver, a master to be obeyed, though not necessarily conciliated.

Related Characters: Buck, The man in the red sweater
Related Symbols: The Law of Club and Fang
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Buck has been kidnapped unexpectedly, and his new owners beat him with a heavy club, causing Buck great pain. Buck, who's been treated well for his entire life, isn't the least bit used to such acts of violence--he's literally never experienced them before.

The passage is important because it establishes the supremacy of violence and survival in the novel. The simple fact is that life (particularly in the Northland) is hard and full of pain--the only question, at least for Buck, is whether or not Buck will be able to overcome the pain and survive. London paints a harsh, Darwinian picture of the world, in which the strong (those who control the club) control the weak (Buck, who's been captured). Buck must learn to become more powerful and control his own environment--or he'll be killed.

"Well, Buck, my boy," he went on in a genial voice, "we've had our little ruction, and the best thing we can do is to let it go at that. You've learned your place, and I know mine. Be a good dog and all 'll go well and the goose hang high. Be a bad dog, and I'll whale the stuffin' outa you. Understand?
Related Characters: The man in the red sweater (speaker), Buck
Related Symbols: The Law of Club and Fang
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the man who beats Buck expresses the basic law of survival that London has just shown us. The man has beaten Buck with a heavy club because Buck was being disobedient--Buck had just been kidnapped from his old home, and wasn't used to his new, harsh owners.

In essence, Buck has been living in a soft, dreamy world--a world in which there's infinite food and plentiful company. The real world, which Buck is just about to discover, is wild, dangerous, and full of violence. Buck has just discovered the basic law of the real world: know your place, or you'll be attacked for getting out of line. Buck, as a dog in a world of men, must learn to be obedient to his masters, or risk being beaten again.

One reason that London's novel--a novel about a dog--feels mature and insightful, rather than childish, is that London thinks that, on the most basic level, there's no difference between a dog and a human being. Both are just animals, trying to survive by adapting to their surroundings. Even a dog knows the law of the club--one must either master or be mastered.

Chapter 2 Quotes

He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilization and flung into the heart of things primordial. No lazy, sun-kissed life was this, with nothing to do but loaf and be bored. Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment's safety. All was confusion and action, and every moment life and limb were in peril. There was imperative need to be constantly alert; for these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. They were savages, all of them, who knew no law but the law of club and fang.

Related Characters: Buck
Related Symbols: The Law of Club and Fang, The Southland v. The Northland
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter 2, London clarifies everything that's happened to Buck in Chapter 1: Buck has been ripped away from his old life in California--he can longer count on food or shelter. Instead, Buck has to adapt to his new, chaotic surroundings, finding the best way to obey the "law of club and fang."

The law of club and fang is, in essence, London's interpretation of survival of the fittest. All beings in the universe are competing with each other for food and shelter--the difference is that some animals (humans, dogs) are less aware of the competition than others. In his new environment, Buck is suddenly made aware of the laws of the universe, and adapts accordingly.

Here London also contrasts town with nature, the "Southland" (California) with the "Northland" (Alaska). Because of their drastically differing environments, it's suggested, even the very morals of each place are different. In the South, there is enough warmth and food to indulge in "luxuries" like boredom, compassion, or fun. In the North, however, one must be "savage" in order to survive.

So that was the way. No fair play. Once down, that was the end of you.

Related Characters: Buck, Curly
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, a dog named Curly approaches another dog in an attempt to be friendly. Instead of responding with friendliness, the dog attacks Curly and kills her. In this way, Buck learns one basic lesson of his new environment: there's no more politeness, no more fair play. Dogs who step out of line for any reason--even their own kindness--end up dead. Buck has lived in a world where kindness and gentleness was celebrated, but now he's come to the opposite kind of environment, where hard work and toughness are paramount. (Notice that the dog who's killed in this scene is a female, suggesting that the "real world" might be easier for males, with their supposedly more violent and aggressive instincts--a common, though inaccurate interpretation of Darwin's "survival of the fittest.")

Buck had been purposefully placed between Dave and Sol-leks so that he might receive instruction. Apt scholar that he was, they were equally apt teachers, never allowing him to linger long in error, and enforcing their teaching with their sharp teethÉand ere the day was done, so well had he mastered his work.

Related Characters: Buck, Dave, Sol-leks
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Buck learns how to be a sled dog. He's taken through a crash course in running, pulling, and turning--and surprisingly, he turns out to be an excellent student, quickly mastering the basic lessons he's taught.

It's worth noting that Buck learns his lessons quickly because he's taught by Dave, an experienced dog who bites and barks whenever Buck messes up. London anticipates the psychology of "negative reinforcement" and B.F. Skinner's conditioning treatments--the best way to learn, as far as he's concerned, is through the threat of pain. Sure enough, Buck masters his skills in less than a day, thanks--it's implied--to Dave and Sol-leks.

This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death.

Related Characters: Buck
Related Symbols: The Southland v. The Northland
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Buck learns how to survive in the harsh new environment in which he finds himself. Buck doesn't get much food, so he has to steal other dogs' food in order to survive. Buck quickly learns that he's good at stealing without getting caught--as a result, he survives the harsh Northland instead of slowly starving to death.

London's observations about dogs might just seem like good writing, but they also contain some important insights that could be applied to human society, too. London was a committed socialist, who believed that society was wrong to punish thieves and robbers so harshly. Thieves, he maintained, weren't immoral people--they were just trying to feed themselves and survive poverty. The only true morality in life, London believed, was the law of survival. London doesn't judge Buck for thieving--just as he didn't judge thieves--instead, he seems glad that Buck is asserting his will and surviving.

And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down.Thus, as a torken of what a puppet thing life is, the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again.

Related Characters: Buck
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, London describes how Buck's inner instincts are awoken during his time as a sled dog. For much of his life, he's been living in luxury. Now that he's forced to work hard for his dinner, however, Buck can no longer rely on dependable masters. Instead, Buck has to rely on his instincts--instincts that are buried deep in his DNA, thanks to thousands of years of wolfish ancestry. Buck has an innate instinct to fight, to thieve, and above all, to survive. Thus London portrays him as not so much progressing, but "devolving"--returning to his original, natural state.

Buck is a survivor, first and foremost. He was initially disoriented and frightened by his new environment, but instead of giving up, he used his instincts to regain his confidence. Now, Buck seems surprisingly at ease among the other sled-dogs--he's given into his survival instincts.

Chapter 3 Quotes

The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck, and under the fierce conditions of the trail it grew and grew.

Related Characters: Buck
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

London is fond of beginning each one of his chapters with a quick "recap" of the chapter before--London was a serial novelist for much of his life, and needed to remind his readers what had happened in the story the previous week. Here, London shows us that the "primordial beast"--i.e., the aggregate of thousands of years of wolfish behavior--has taken over in Buck's consciousness. Buck has had experiences at a luxurious house, but these experiences don't shape his behavior remotely as much as his instincts. In effect, London is saying that a dog's behavior--and perhaps, a human's, too--is more instinct than education. Buck has to learn to adapt to his environment, but at the end of the day, he obeys one law and one law alone--the law of the club and fang. Survival is his highest priority, and everything else is a detail.

It was inevitable that the clash for leadership should come. Buck wanted it. He wanted it because it was his nature, because he had been gripped tight by that nameless, incomprehensible pride of the trail and trace—that pride which holds dogs in the toil to the last gasp, which lure them to die joyfully in the harness, and breaks their hearts if they cut out of the harness.

Related Characters: Buck
Related Symbols: The Traces
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, we see that Buck is developing a rivalry with another dog, Spitz. Like Buck, Spitz is strong and dangerous, and feels a natural instinct to be top dog in the "traces" (harness of the sled). There can only be one leader among the animals, though--thus, a clash between Buck and Spitz is inevitable.

What's the difference between Buck and Spitz? Nothing, perhaps--they're both just dogs trying to survive and master their environment. One gets the sense that London could have told his story from the perspective of any one of the dogs pulling the sled. Buck's story is particularly interesting, though, in that Buck spends the majority of his life in luxury--thus, by telling the story from Buck's point of view, London shows how strong a dog's instincts are, to the point where they overshadow its literal experiences. In the end, though, Buck and Spitz are just two dogs trying to gain power--because it's their nature.

The insidious revolt led by Buck had destroyed the solidarity of the team. It no longer was as one dog leaping in the traces.

Related Characters: Buck
Related Symbols: The Traces
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

In this fascinating section, Buck begins a subtle "revolt" against Spitz, the top dog of the sled team. Buck notices that Spitz has attacked a weaker dog named Pike. Buck cleverly defends Pike from Spitz's aggression, building loyalty between Pike (and, by extension, the other weak dogs who are afraid of Spitz) and Buck.

Buck, in short, is a good politician--he knows how to rise to power. Instead of attacking Spitz directly, he builds up a coalition against Spitz, undermining Spitz's power-base. Buck, to use some Marxist language, is the bourgeois politician, building up solidarity with the proletariat in order to defeat the social elite. While it may seem odd that a dog is playing the part of a politician, London doesn't think so at all--the path to power is almost as instinctive as survival itself.

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot riseÉand it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of beingÉ

Related Characters: Buck
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Buck has just defeated Spitz, his rival for power. Buck is a less talented and experienced fighter than Spitz, but he's successfully built loyalty between himself and the other dogs, allowing him to defeat Spitz at the last minute. Buck savors the feeling of dominance he gets from being the new pack leader.

The feeling of power Buck gets in this passage is every bit as basic as the laws of survival itself: over thousands of years, wolves have learned to vie for power over other wolves, because power is surely the best way to ensure plentiful food and shelter. Buck, one could say, is an especially powerful and power-hungry dog--he's extraordinary in the ambition he projects. As a result, he makes a good hero.

Buck stood and looked on, the successful champion, the dominant primordial beast who had made his kill and found it good.

Related Characters: Buck
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Buck has just defeated Spitz, his rival for power among the sled dogs. In this passage, London reinforces Buck's victory by describing the sense of power and control that Buck feels immediately afterwards.

In a way, the passage conveys two victories simultaneously. the first victory is obvious: Buck's victory over Spitz. The second victory is subtler yet more important: the victory of Buck's savage instincts over his own domestication. Though Buck has been living a life of luxury for many years now, his strong, aggressive instincts come out quickly and exhilaratingly. Here, Buck is finally committed to his new life--a life of constant danger and fighting. Such a life might seem horrible, but Buck savors the constant, aggressive competition.

Chapter 4 Quotes

At a bound Buck took up the duties of leadership, and where judgment was required, and quick thinking and quick acting he showed himself superior even of Spitz, of whom Franois had never seen an equal.

Related Characters: Buck, Spitz, François
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Buck is now the pack leader--the lord of the other dogs. Buck has defeated his rival, Spitz, by proving himself to be a stronger and savvier animal. Buck's victory over Spitz is surprising to Francois, the human master of the dogs, because Francois had never seen a dog stronger than Spitz.

The passage is important because it clarifies why, exactly, Buck defeated Spitz. At times, Buck seemed like a sleazy politician, manipulating the other dogs against Spitz in order to defeat him. But here, it becomes clear that the better dog has won: Buck defeated Spitz not because he was sneaky but because he was stronger and faster. In the end, Darwin is right: the fitter animal always survives.

Far more potent were the memories of his heredity that gave things he had never seen before a seeming familiarity; the instincts (which were but the memories of his ancestors become habits) which had lapsed in later days, and still later, in hum, quickened and become alive again.

Related Characters: Buck
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Buck moves still further into the realm of instinct and heredity. Buck has had plenty of memories, but as he proceeds with being a sled dog, he begins to think more about his ancestral memories—i.e., the experiences of the millions of wolves from whom he’s descended.

The passage offers an interesting definition of instinct: memories that have evolved into habits. Over the course of thousands or even millions of years, wolves have accumulated certain experiences that they pass down to their offspring: instincts for survival, fighting, and endurance. Buck, we know by now, is a particularly distinguished inheritor of such instincts: he feels the influence of his wolf ancestors particularly strongly.

Dave resented being taken out, grunting and growling while the traces were unfastened, and whimpering brokenheartedly when he saw Sol-leks in the position he had held and served so long. For the pride of trace and trail was his, and sick, unto death, he could not bear that another dog should do his work.

Related Characters: Buck, Dave, Sol-leks
Related Symbols: The Traces
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Dave, one of the sled dogs who originally trained Buck in how to obey orders, collapses from exhaustion—he’s gotten so old that he can no longer be a successful sled dog. And yet Dave still wants to be a sled dog—he wants to keep his spot in the traces, to continue working for his human masters, right up to the moment when they end his life with a gunshot.

The passage is equal parts noble and disturbing: Dave is the very embodiment of the wolfish instinct to fight and survive. And yet in the end, even Dave’s instincts for survival end the same way: death. There’s a tragic futility to everything the dogs do—no matter how much power they attain within the ranks of the sled, they’re still the slaves of their human masters, forced to break their bodies pulling heavy loads thousands of miles.

Chapter 5 Quotes

In excess of their own misery, [Hal, Charles, and Mercedes] were callous to the suffering of their animals. Hal's theory, which he practiced on others, was that one must get hardened. He had started out preaching it to his sister and brother-in-law. Failing there, he hammered it into the dogs with a club.

Related Characters: Hal, Mercedes, Charles
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Buck has been passed to another set of owners, Hal, Charles, and Mercedes. These owners are foolish and incompetent—instead of treating their animals well, they burden them with horribly heavy loads that exhaust the dogs and break their bodies rapidly.

The new owners have a philosophy for how to control their animals: they believe that it’s best to be cruel and harsh to the dogs, in order to separate the strong from the weak and make them all get "hardened." Such a theory is a bastardization of Darwin’s survival of the fittest—much like Social Darwinism, the doctrine that was used to justify wealth inequality in human society. Hal and his co-owners don’t understand anything about taking care of dogs—but they disguise their own incompetence by claiming that they’re “teaching” their dogs a lesson. In political terms, Hal is an unjust ruler; even if London doesn’t see anything wrong with humans owning dogs, he insists that there’s a right and a wrong way to do so.

[Buck] had made up his mind not to get up. He had a vague feeling of impending doomÉ.What of the thin and rotten ice he had felt under his feet all day, it seemed that he sensed disaster close at hand, out there ahead on the ice where his master was trying to drive.

Related Characters: Buck
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene from the end of the chapter, Buck refuses to cooperate with his tyrannical owners. The owners want Buck and the other dogs to carry a heavy load over thin ice—in other words, they want the dogs to defy the laws of nature, in a suicidal attempt to transport their own heavy cargo. Buck, knowing full-well that he won’t survive the trek across the frozen lake (because of an instinctual "sense"), refuses to get up, and the other dogs follow his example.

Chapter 5 is important because it shows that London doesn’t just believe that the world is a brutal, violent place. Even if it’s dogs’ fate to pull sleds for humans, there’s a big difference between a just and an unjust master. Buck’s current owners’ tyranny, unlike that of their predecessors, is simply discordant with nature—it violates the natural order. As a result, Buck, listening to his natural instincts, refuses to play along. London’s novel doesn’t have any morality beyond the natural order of the universe—and yet here, he judges Hal and the other owners for violating such a natural order.

“They're lazy, I tell you, and you've got to whip them to get anything out of them. That's their way. You ask any one. Ask one of those men.”
Related Characters: Hal (speaker), Buck, The Insides
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hal complains that his dogs are lazy for refusing to cross the frozen lake bearing their masters’ cargo. In order to make an example out of the dogs, Hal chooses to whip Buck.

Hal’s speech shows how out of touch he is with his own dogs, not to mention the realities of the world. Buck knows far better than Hal what’s going on: he’s not refusing to pull the cargo because he’s lazy, but because he knows that the cargo will break through the frozen river and kill him. Even here, Buck is a fundamentally self-interested animal; he won’t do anything that he senses will endanger himself. Hal, by contrast, looks like a fool—he claims that you can “ask anyone” how lazy the dogs are, when London’s book testifies to the fact that Buck isn’t the least bit lazy, and it's also presumed that the wiser dog owners around Hal would similarly disagree with Hal's methods.

"If you strike that dog again, I'll kill you," he at last managed to say in a choking voice.
Related Characters: John Thornton (speaker), Buck, Hal
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Hal is beating Buck for refusing to cross the frozen river. As Hal beats Buck, a worker, John Thornton, intervenes and threatens to kill Hal if he hurts Buck again. The emotion of the scene is palpable: John seems to be choking as he speaks, suggesting that he’s crying because of Hal’s cruelty.

How should we understand this scene—which, unlike everything else in the book, seems to put forth a morality based on compassion and sympathy? Perhaps the reason that London shows John behaving compassionately is that he wants to contrasts John’s behavior with that of the violent, irrational Hal. Hal is a man who simply doesn’t understand how nature works—he’s about to send a heavy cargo across a thin layer of ice. John is compassionate, but he’s also smart enough to see that Buck isn’t really being lazy at all—Buck just wants to survive. London suggests that even John’s compassion is based on the principle of survival of the fittest—John protects Buck because he recognizes that Buck is smart enough to avoid the ice, and because he respects Buck’s strength and intelligence.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Love, genuine passionate love, was his for the first time. This he had never experienced at Judge Miller'sÉ.With the Judge's sons, hunting and tramping, it had been a working partnership; with the Judge's grandsons, aÉpompous guardianshipÉ.with the Judge himself, a stately dignified friendship. But love that was feverish and burning, that was adoration, that was madness, it had taken John Thornton to arouse.

Related Characters: Buck, John Thornton, Judge Miller
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter Six, the novel changes directions abruptly. Buck has had many masters before, but only now does he have an ideal master—someone who genuinely loves him. London distinguishes sharply between the love Buck received in his old, luxurious lifestyle—such love, we’re told, wasn’t really based in respect or mutual appreciation. Here, however, Buck and his new owner, John, genuinely respect each other: they recognize that they’re both talented, intelligent beings, capable of surviving, and beyond that they truly enjoy each other's company.

In this passage, London outlines a kind of “ideal society.” London, a politically active thinker throughout his life, doesn’t believe that a society can ever be totally just unless the rulers and the people truly love each other: if they truly recognize each other’s abilities and work together. Buck thinks that he’s found an ideal society with John, as they work together to survive.

“As you love me, Buck. As you love me.”
Related Characters: John Thornton (speaker), Buck
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Buck prepares for a wager that will make his master, John, rich. Buck has been sent to move a thousand-pound sled—if he succeeds, John will win a lot of money. As John prepares Buck for the wager, he tells Buck to succeed if Buck loves him.

The passage is interesting because it shows the strengths and weaknesses of John and Buck’s relationship. Buck sincerely loves and even worships John, protecting him from danger and making him lots of money. The relationship is strong because John and Buck seem to genuinely respect each other—like the citizens of an ideal society, they recognize their partners’ strengths. And yet the relationship between John and Buck is totally unequal—as the quote suggests, Buck probably “loves” John more than John loves Buck. John is still very much the boss, even when Buck does all the real work.

Chapter 7 Quotes

He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.

Related Characters: Buck, The Yeehats
Related Symbols: The Law of Club and Fang
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Buck finally steps out of line and breaks the natural order, the "law of club and fang." He suspects that a group of Yeehats has killed his previous master, John. Buck, who loved John intensely, is overcome with hatred, and he attacks the Yeehats, killing some of them. Buck has never before killed a human being—he’s always been trained to obey humans at all costs, and to accept their mastery. Paradoxically, it was Buck’s love for another human being that led him to kill these humans.

Buck seems to be overcoming his natural subservience to humanity. He’s appreciated some of his previous masters, but at the end of the day, they needed him more than he needed them. Buck has been trained to obey because of the threat of violence, and because of the sense of a natural hierarchy. But now, Buck is free to be his own master—to live among other wolves instead of being exploited by humans.

It was the call, the many-noted call, sounding more luringly and compellingly than ever before. And as never before he was ready to obey. John Thornton was dead. The last tie was broken. Man and the claims of man no longer bound him.

Related Characters: Buck, John Thornton
Related Symbols: The Call
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, London is at his most romantic and his most political. Over the course of the novel, Buck has had many different masters: metaphorical tyrants, oligarchs, democrats, etc.—some Buck has hated, others he’s loved. And yet every leader Buck ever had stole his own labor from him: Buck’s leaders imprisoned him, forcing him to work for little to no reward.

Now that Buck has no human master, he’s free to live in a utopian society of wolves. After years of having his labors stolen from him, he finally controls what he does and where he goes. In the past, Buck hungered for a human master, but now, he can get by without one. Notice that had Buck been sent into the wild immediately after leaving the Judge’s house, he would never have been happy there—he would have wanted to return home right away, and probably would have died. But because of the gradual evolution (or devolution) of Buck’s situation over the course of the novel, Buck is finally prepared to be his own master.

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