is my calling. As well as a classic novel by Jack London. It was first published in 1903, and became the most read book of its time. The book made London rich and famous. I first read it in 1972, living in a cabin on the Poudre River. However, I likely read “To Build A Fire” in high school English. Both the novel and short story are based on the author’s journey into the Yukon territory during the Klondike gold rush in 1897.
Before, when I was in middle school, I became enamored with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan fantasy series. I was well primed for the call of the wild. When I moved to Colorado in 1966 with my family, a school mate took me into the wilderness. We hiked nine miles in and camped for eight days. Living mostly off wild trout and berries. I was hooked.
Four years later, disgusted with the current state of affairs (war, lying, greed, and pollution), I dropped out of college and went to live “off the land” in the backwoods of New Hampshire. One problem was – it happened to be the dead of winter. The temperature often reached forty below zero. Not quite as frigid as the north country, but close.
Those early readings and experiences cemented in me a confidence that I could survive – anything. I was tough, strong, and capable. However unbeknownst to me, also terribly naive and unrealistic.
Jack London’s writing
is beautiful. It is at once gripping, tragic, horrific, and heroic. In The Call Of The Wild, he captures man’s search for meaning through the lives of dogs (and men).
is told from the perspective of a dog, Buck. Buck is a spoiled rich creature living the life of luxury in Southern California. When gold is discovered in the Northland, dogs become a necessary commodity because they are the only means of moving freight across the frozen territory.
Buck is betrayed for money. He’s tricked, captured, and sold into what amounts to slavery. He is brutalized – beaten with a club into submission. And that’s just the beginning. Buck survives because of his size, strength, and intelligence. He becomes a thief and a killer. Vicious, because he has to or die.
Love and work
is the meaning of life. So said Sigmund Freud. That is true for dogs and men. (Women? the question remains open.) London gives the dogs personalities, as varied as the human characters. Pride in achievement (work) is a huge motivator, as well as food and shelter. Buck schemes and dreams. He dreams of his wild beginnings and that of Mankind’s – of the attachment (love) to one another. London tells the story of the evolution of man through the thoughts, dreams, and fantasies of Buck. It’s marvelous story telling. The dogs and men develop bonds of friendship, animus, and love between and within their species.
Money and power
are paramount motivators, too. It’s all about survival in the final analysis. The dogs, of course, don’t compete and cooperate for money. London’s imagination doesn’t cross that boundary. Thus, the story rings true.
The Call of the Wild
is a real thing. As is Civilization and its Discontents. The call is strong and powerful. It calls to me deep down in my soul. This book brings it all back to me. Still crazy after all these years. This thing called life.