In the harsh Klondike, man and sled dog develop intense bonds, coming to depend on each other in symbiotic ways in order to survive. For instance, sled dogs, like Buck provide transportation and labor to couriers like François and Perrault, who in turn care for their animals with food and protection. London portrays such bonds by demonstrating how Buck's owners shape his character and educate him in the ways of mastery.
At Judge Miller's insular estate Buck is a prized and pampered pet, allowed to have the run of the place as a glorified guard dog, who ceremoniously lies by the Judge's feet and accompanies his grandchildren on little hunting trips. Under François and Perrault's just and wise care, Buck becomes an exemplary working dog and fierce leader. Through John Thornton's love and respect, Buck transforms into a loyal companion.
That Buck changes so thoroughly under these human owners highlights not only the diversity of man-dog relationships, but also its evolutionary nature. For London, the kinship between man and dog is ever-changing, but also primeval, stretching back to the ancient times when caveman first hunted with wild wolves. It is also a relationship fraught by a deep-seated struggle "to master, or be mastered.” While men seek to domesticate Buck by shaping his identity, Buck struggles to reconcile his inner instincts with his devotion for his "ideal master,” John Thornton. This struggle for dominance is, for London, the crux of the man-dog relationship. It is a kinship that can be "ideal” through mutual love, respect, and justness, but because it has evolved into various symbiotic partnerships, it can hardly ever live up to its primeval legacy in which man and beast walk as co-dependent, but also autonomous equals.
The Man-Dog relationship ThemeTracker
The Man-Dog relationship Quotes in The Call of the Wild
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 law. 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.
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.
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.
He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.
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.