The Call of the Wild

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The Traces Symbol Icon
The traces, which bind the sled dogs to their sleds, represent labor and service, pride in one's work, and the social hierarchy of the sled dog team. Under the traces' binding grip, Buck transforms from a pet into a working dog. He learns and earns his place through his labor in the traces. However, the sled dog's traces don't just bind canines into steadfast servitude. They also reflect the working order of the entire sled dog team. A dog's position in the traces dictates his place in the team's canine hierarchy. For instance, Spitz is the dominant, alpha male of the pack, so he is harnessed at the head of the team. When Buck overthrows Spitz, he assumes Spitz's place in the traces, symbolizing his leadership and authority over the other dogs.
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The Traces Symbol Timeline in The Call of the Wild

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Traces appears in The Call of the Wild. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Law of Club and Fang
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
Buck receives "another shock" when François harnesses him to the traces. Having observed horses harnessed in a similar manner to haul loads, Buck's pride is hurt... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Dominant Primordial Beast
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
...rest in Dawson, the team pushes onward to Skaguay. But there is unrest in the traces as Buck's insurrection continues. One night, Buck leads the pack in a rabbit hunt. Caught... (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
...with harnessing the dogs. Buck walks to take Spitz's position at the head of the traces. Yet François harnesses Sol-leks there. Buck, indignant, lunges at Sol-leks, who stands back. François grabs... (full context)
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
...down with a mysterious illness, becoming so weak that he can barely stand in the traces. The Scotsman removes Dave from the traces, putting Sol-leks in his place. Dave resents being... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Toil of Trace and Trail
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
...five dogs remain, after Hal kills Billee with an ax for falling down in the traces. Wounded, weary, and traumatized, the dogs do not even notice that spring has arrived. The... (full context)
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
Domestication to Devolution Theme Icon
...his ax. Thornton picks up the knife, using it to cut Buck out of his traces. Hal, tired from the fight, retreats with Charles, Mercedes and the remaining dogs, heading towards... (full context)
Chapter 6: For the Love of Man
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
Thornton shouts directions at Buck to pull the sled. Straining under the traces, Buck swings to the right, then to the left, breaking the sled's runners out of... (full context)