Friday, 7 September 2001

Jack London: Call of the Wild (1900)

Edition: Award Books
Review number: 939

Jack London wrote a fairly wide variety of fiction, including some early science fiction, but he is overwhelmingly best remembered for this story of dogs in the Alaskan gold rush. Buck, a St Bernard/German Shephard cross, is kidnapped from his owner in California to help fill the massive demand for sled dogs in the far north. Told from his point of view, but with a third person narrator, Call of the Wild describes how he is broken in to this work and eventually becomes successful before feeling the call to move into the wilderness.

The obvious influences on The Call of the Wild are the animal stories of Rudyard Kipling, particularly The White Seal. The Call of the Wild has a similar tone, and uses anthropomorphism of a similar kind - not patronising or prettifying, but trying to give the reader an insight. It is more savage than Kipling, and has something of the American cult of the wilderness, particularly towards the end, an aspect which is unsurprisingly absent from the English writer's work.

It remains an exciting novel, and makes me wonder, reading it again, whether London's other writing will have survived as well as this has.

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