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The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

by Jack London

Defeat Theme

The willingness to accept small defeats in the name of long-term goals is a notable feature of our protagonist here. Buck realizes that he must submit to man’s weapons and to his new life as a sled dog, but submitting enables him to fight and win what are ultimately larger battles. This may be the quality that most differentiates Buck from the other dogs.

Questions About Defeat

  1. When Buck chooses to give in rather than fight, is it because he's being practical or because he's being weak? Does he have to stop being scared in order to adapt to the wild, or does he have to learn when is the time to fight and when is the time to roll over and play dead?
  2. Take a look at the times Buck does choose to submit. What do those all have in common? What makes them different? How do they compare to the times Buck chooses to fight?
  3. How does physical defeat relate to emotional or mental defeat? Can Buck submit physically without doing so mentally? If so, is this really a victory of will power, or just a cheap defense for giving in?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Buck is differentiated from the other dogs, and especially from Spitz, by his ability to submit rather than blindly fight.

While many changes in his character contribute to his adaptation to the wild, Buck's decision to stop submitting defines his personal transition.

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