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The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild


by Jack London

The Call of the Wild Theme of Suffering

Suffering in The Call of the Wild is largely physical. We expect our protagonist to feel a certain level of emotional turmoil after he is taken from his home, but instead his survivalist tendencies kick in. The story becomes one about surviving physical hardships rather than dwelling on thoughts and feelings. Buck endures suffering at the hands of the wilderness (the hard conditions, the freezing cold), other dogs (both in his pack and feral), and man (always in the form of a weapon like a club or a whip). Buck’s suffering, though, is an important part of his character development. The Call of the Wild shows that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Is it possible that all the suffering he endures turns out to be good for Buck?
  2. Buck goes through a lot of different kinds of hardship. There's the fact that he's taken from his home, the beatings, the freezing cold, and near starvation, not to mention every time he starts to trust a man, the guy leaves him. Do these different types of suffering represent different aspects of Buck's transformation? What's the difference, say, between hunger (a longing for something) as opposed to beatings (the endurance of pain)? This might have something to do with Buck's adaptation to the wild.
  3. How do emotional hardships relate to physical ones?

Chew on This

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

While Buck suffers in many ways on his journeys, hunger, both literal and metaphorical, is the biggest challenge he must overcome.

Although many elements contribute to Buck's reformation, the suffering he undergoes in the wild is ultimately the driving force for his character change.

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