The Call of the Wild


Jack London

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The Man-Dog relationship Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Mastery Theme Icon
Wild Law and Order Theme Icon
Domestication to Devolution Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Call of the Wild, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Man-Dog relationship Theme Icon

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.

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The Man-Dog relationship ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Man-Dog relationship appears in each chapter of The Call of the Wild. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The Man-Dog relationship Quotes in The Call of the Wild

Below you will find the important quotes in The Call of the Wild related to the theme of The Man-Dog relationship.
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 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.

Related Characters: Buck, The man in the red sweater
Related Symbols: The Law of Club and Fang
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
"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:
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:
“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:
"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:
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:
“As you love me, Buck. As you love me.”
Related Characters: John Thornton (speaker), Buck
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

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: