Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Law of Club and Fang

"The Fight", Barry Moser, illustrating The Call of the Wild
It's been years since I read The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. It held my interest now just as it did when I was twelve--who would not strain to follow the sad and descending path of that noble dog, Buck? I still gasped in horror when he was beaten by the man in the red sweater, still exalted when John Thornton saved his life, and still thrilled when he broke out and pulled for one hundred yards a sled with one thousand pounds of flour.

The impression that had remained with me was that of blood, of strife, of howling. And this time around it was confirmed. London, largely self-educated and a firm believer in the Darwinian gospel, traces Buck's progress as he loses the sheen of civilization applied by his birth in the warm Southland and connects with the atavistic power of his forebears. The book could hardly be called anything but The Call of the Wild, because in relentless, tight prose, London drives Buck toward answering that call. Buck quickly learns that mercy is seen as a form of fear, that if one loses one's footing the horde will devour one, and that man with a club is a god to be feared.

In the rough and brutal world of the Alaskan gold rush, men and dogs alike face physical and emotional challenges inconceivable to many on the Outside. Those who survive will be those who learn the laws that govern them and respect the great crashing forces of nature.

Our lives bear little resemblance to theirs, but that is perhaps part of the interest we have in reading this type of book. We cannot know whether the call of the wild would draw us or our dogs, because we've never gotten quite close enough to hear it. Through Jack London's ruthless prose, we can.

Have you contemplated the Law of Club and Fang? Any thoughts on The Call of the Wild?

1 comment:

ruthie said...

Dear Emily, thank you for coming over to 5 precious things to say hi! Its good to learn to slow down and breathe isn't it, not always easy to remember;-)

I remember reading Call of the Wild in English Lit at school, it had quite an impact on me, in that it roused some very powerful emotions & questions. I had a bit of a love hate relationship with it, but still after all the years I remember it well!.