The Call of the Wild
Physical transformation becomes a gauge by which we judge our protagonist’s increasing reputation. As Buck gets stronger, faster, and more dominant, so his reputation grows and improves. There seems to be no division between men and dogs here, as both end up in awe of Buck’s prowess. Reputation is also a tool by which we discern which qualities are important in the world of the novel. Buck gets famous for pulling a staggeringly heavy load, so strength is important. Because he is known for his commitment to Thornton, loyalty is important. Reputation is then not only a noticeable feature of the protagonist, but also a tool for the readers.
Questions About Respect and Reputation
- How does Buck's value change as he adapts to the wild?
- What does value mean, after all? His monetary worth? Or his sense of self-worth? Or his ability to survive, or pull an excessive load, or kill a moose?
- Could you make the argument that Buck in some way decreases in value? What about his morality?
- What's more important to Buck's value, his physical strength or his "cunning?"
Chew on This
While many elements contribute to Buck's value and worth, his physicality is the most important.
Buck's value is greater in the wild than it ever could have been had he stayed on the ranch on California.