The Call of the Wild

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The Law of Club and Fang Symbol Analysis

The Law of Club and Fang Symbol Icon
The law of club and fang refers to the primitive law of nature that reigns in the Northland, which rules according to the necessities of survival in reference to both dog's relation to man and to other dogs. We see the two parts of this law in action through particular devices: the man in the red sweater's club and the dog fangs that rip Curly to shreds. Through powerful blows the man in the red sweater's club teaches dogs, like Buck, to obey their masters. Meanwhile, the dogs' attack on Curly symbolizes the power of the fang. Together, the law of club and the law of fang prescribes a code for survival in the Northland—obey man's club, never let your guard down, and fight to win.

The Law of Club and Fang Quotes in The Call of the Wild

The The Call of the Wild quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Law of Club and Fang. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
). 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

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.

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"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.

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.

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The Law of Club and Fang Symbol Timeline in The Call of the Wild

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Law of Club and Fang appears in The Call of the Wild. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Into the Primitive
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
...the crate, leaping towards the man. He's stunned when the man strikes him with a club. Buck lunges again and again, but is struck down each time. Buck has never been... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Law of Club and Fang
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
...are not "town dogs and men," but "savages" who abide by the law of the club and fang. (full context)
Chapter 4: Who Has Won to Mastership
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
...the scruff of his neck, removing him from the traces, then threatens him with the club when Buck attempts to assume Spitz's position again. Buck eludes the club's reach, until François... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Sounding of the Call
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
Domestication to Devolution Theme Icon
...that John Thornton is dead. Buck, overcome by rage and grief, defies the law of club and fang, attacking the Yeehats, killing some of them, and causing the others to flee. (full context)