Sunday, June 6, 2010
Jack London "The Call of the Wild"
I was completely captivated by Buck and his experiences from the first page to the last. Jack London takes us inside Buck and his metamorphosis from domesticated dog to wild hunter. The action sequences in the novel (and there are many) are brilliantly told. It is really edge of your seat stuff. The language is simple, beautiful and evocative. The fights, the ceaseless toil and the flights through the forest in pursuit of prey, are incredible. I can see all of it as I write this now. Jack London's writing is magic; you don't even notice the writing. The reader is effortlessly transported to the frozen north and can hear every gnashing of teeth and cracking of the whip. The writing is tight, not a word wasted. It is so real. Yes I haven't gone mad, this tale, told from the point of view of a dog is very real. And not only is it real but as the reader I cared so much about this dog. I don't even like dogs that much for goodness sake, but Buck well and truly found his way into my heart.
The novel is quite violent in parts. The dogs are subjected to vicious cruelty by some of the humans in the story. There is also an ongoing struggle for supremacy amongst the dogs themselves. It all works and adds to the tension, but I think children would find it all a bit much.
The themes explored in the book include loyalty, bravery and love. In many way these themes are amplified because we see them enacted through Buck. Then there is the "call of the wild" itself. The idea that we carry buried deep inside, something elemental and essential from our ancestors that links us to nature, exploring new frontiers and a kill or be killed way of life. But yes I know I am going on. I can't really explain why The Call of the Wild works so well, and why the trials of Buck moved me, except to suggest that it is a simple adventure story brilliantly told.