In the novel 'The Call of the Wild' by Jack London, the protagonist Buck, a dog from South-land is kidnapped and sold to hostile people in the North. He has to adapt to becoming a dog of the North. Within this novel, Buck undergoes a very significant change of character and emotional state. He transitions from being the self-illustrated King of Judge Miller’s house, to a wild and liberated dog, emerged in a wolf pack within the land of the North. This transition is a symbol of the impact that society can endorse on the emotional and mental thought process of an individual. In this case, it is transparent that Buck forcefully underwent a phase shift in his personality to adapt to the harsh environment of the North ensuring the credibility of his future survival. There are numerous significant factors that contributed to Buck embracing his primitive side. The most consequential components being Buck getting clubbed by the “man in the red sweater”, the conflict with Spitz and him joining the wolf pack.
The “man in the red sweater” was Buck's first encounter with the wild North. Buck perceived that the North wasn't a place to ease up through the physical and mental pain he was feeling. “That club was a revelation. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law, and he met the introduction halfway.”(Page 16 & 17). “He saw, once for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He had learned the lesson, and in all his after life he never forgot it.”(Page 16) At Judge Miller’s house, he didn’t have to follow any rules or attack anyone for his own safety, he did as he pleased. Now when he attempted to act in the manner of a defensive king (by attacking instead of listening), he was beaten with a club and this experience gave Buck a glimpse of reality. Both of the quotations above display the persuasion to Buck’s prerequisite mindset. The quotations mention this powerful collision that changed what Buck thought of the new surroundings. They indirectly hint at the initial contact that Buck had with the law of club and fang. In this case, the club was a symbol and represented the relative harshness of the North. This serves as the turning point of his personality as a whole.
Buck and Spitz’s conflict had altered the way Buck reacted to situations. From the moment that Spitz, the leader of the pack during the first 3 chapters, laughed at the death of Curly, Buck possessed pure hatred for the dog. This hatred caused an exchange of ridicule but Buck avoided a fight. This changed when the fight to the death between Buck and Spitz arrived. Buck fought and killed Spitz and he felt good about killing someone without any assistance. This is symbolic of him developing a savage and wild nature. “Buck stood and looked on, the successful champion, the dominant primordial beast who had made his kill and found it good.”(Page 64) As mentioned before, the new environment causes Buck to evolve and face changes physically and in his thought process. Not only did the hatred for Spitz drive him to attack, but also the position of leadership. Killing Spitz and feeling good about it shows that Buck’s surroundings are allowing him to evolve into a “primordial beast”. The environment can be viewed as both a severe turning point as well as a factor that eventually leads to the change in Buck’s forsaken sanity and personality. Buck is constantly reminded of pain, suffering, harshness and insanity by looking around him. This is the reason why Buck drew inspiration to his changes in mindset from the actual environment that surrounded him at the time. This can be further concluded through the infinitesimal parallels between Buck’s final personality and the environment of the North.
Whilst on camp, next to the fire, Buck would be under the impression of getting a call from within the forest. This was an irrefutable call. “Irresistible impulses seized him. He would be lying in camp, dozing lazily in the heat of the day, when suddenly his head would lift and his ears cock up, intent and listening, and he would spring to his feet and dash away, and on and on, for hours” (Page 149) Soon, he had to answer the call and one day he did. He went into the forest to find a wolf. The wolf and Buck eventually made a strong connection. “He knew he was at last answering the call, running by the side of his wood brother toward the place from where the call surely came.” (Page 152) They started to travel before Buck remembered John Thorton and returned to camp. (Page 152) Once the camp was attacked and John was killed, Buck decided to join the wolf pack.”The wolves swung in behind, yelping in chorus. Buck ran with them, side-by-side with the wild brother, yelping as he ran.”(Page 170) This shows that Buck has finally made his transition and reached his destination of being a free, wild and primitive animal. At this time, we can infer that Buck has already been introduced and guided by the tough ways of the North, and this harshness is then implemented into his mind as shown in my previous points. In this case, however, we can see a certain “spark” which he experiences when his mind is conceded into him turning into a savage animal to fit the stereotypical properties and society of the North. This call from the forest was simply hypothetical and that it was a side effect of his mind telling him that the only way to survive would be to envelop into the ways of his society. This scene showed that his desire to change into a beast of the North was overpowered by his love and affection towards John. In other words, the power of love is greater than that of pure savagery. This is further proven during the death of John, where Buck’s only roots to domesticity, love, and sanity are severed. Buck, being untethered, had no opposing force to that of the wild. This pushed him to enforce his wild side and join the wolf pack; as the force of insanity was now greater than that of the non-existent force of love.
As Buck’s physical journey through the North proceeds, his mental identity is also shown. Buck is seen to transition from a domestic dog with a self-illustration of a king to a primordial beast with a taste for blood to a wild, free and powerful dog. There are many contributing factors to this significant transformation but the most impacting would be Buck’s collision with the man in the red sweater, his battle to the death with Spitz and his unification with the wolf pack.