Why I Read The Call of the Wild
Well, it’s a brilliant classic by Jack London and the main hero is a dog by the name of Buck! Who doesn’t love classics or dogs? I felt that on a miniscule scale, I could relate to Buck in his departure from the comfortable life to follow the calling of the wild, even if he didn’t fully understand it.
Reading the classics is a highly under-rated form of entertainment and education. Don’t you think? These are the real jewels and gems left to us from our ancestors, and they tell the greatest stories. Read Your Classics! And drink your green juices! (Good heavens, I am sounding really motherly, aren’t I?)
Here I am, freshly returned from the Canada film festival and I should be writing about all the fantastic films I watched during TIFF this year but an advantage of going to the film festival is standing in long lines! Do you know many books you can tear through in those hours?
The Call of the Wild by Jack London was so good, I was happy for the long lines and slightly upset to put it away to watch the movies. It reads like poetry, it penetrates like good wine, it stays with you like a good long kiss and it leaves you wondering about a different world, the world of wild animals and dark forests and deep mysteries of time and nature.
A Dog’s Transformation from Domestic to Wild
The Call of the Wild centers around a magnificent dog’s life and tells of how, once bereft of all its ties to civilization and domestication, he adapts to the rules of man and learns not just to survive this harsh new world but to become one with the wilderness where he is thrust.
This book reminded me of my only skiing experience. I still remember an urge to want to lose myself in it, even as a complete beginner to the sport. I just couldn’t help it when I was surrounded with the bright white snow, on my skis, under the sun. The landscape put a spell on me; I forgot my limits and boundaries in its alluring and inviting beauty.
I wonder if that happens to the sled dogs when they go out to do their work. Does the cold crisp air, the energy of the pack, the call of Mother Nature and the mesmerizing beauty of the white landscape go to their head and turn into this inexhaustible source of energy that pulls the sled for thousands of miles? Do they become surreal, super creatures that defy all laws of nature? Because how else can anyone explain the unreal distances that these dogs travel in those madly harsh conditions?
London alludes to a similar feeling in this most passage:
“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through moonlight. … “
The novella takes place in the Yukon territory of Canada, bordering Alaska in early 1900s during the Klondike gold rush. London tells the story through the eyes and ears of Buck, the St.Bernard-Collie mix who is our hero and who no doubt carries a trace of wilderness deep inside his veins.
The transformation of Buck from a house dog to a wild wolf-like leader of the pack in the harshest conditions known to man and animal is oh so captivating. It is a hard return to the bare minimums, a revisiting of the brutal rules of survival of the fittest where whatever doesn’t kill you toughens you beyond your wildest imagination.
The journey demanded that Buck adapt or else, and those passages are the height of London’s articulation, all through the eyes of a dog, no less! From learning the law of club and fang to discovering the laws of following versus leading the pack, from surviving a terrible turn of events when his fate falls into the wrong hands to finding and experiencing a deep love of man, and finally, to answering the call of the wild, this marks one of the best short novels I have ever read.
Answer or Ignore the Call
And about answering the call, the inner voice, the quiet whisper that comes to you when you are alone and awake, what do you do about that? The inner calling that you hear, it’s for real. It’s the ultimate direction that your life and future calls you and hey, get over it because it presents itself in the worst circumstances, at the most inconvenient hour, and it demands a great deal of attention! You can ignore it. Or you can listen. What do you do?