“Born in San Francisco in 1876 Jack London grew up in a world witnessing the settlement of the last frontier. It was a world in transition. The memory of Jack London’s early life was etched and scarred by the bitterness of poverty. His family was continually on the move to find subsistence. At the age of ten the boy was on the street selling newspapers to supplement the family’s meager income. For fourteen years thereafter — until his first writing success at twenty-four. He became a “work beast” laboring in a cannery, a jute mill, a laundry, and shoveling coal in a power station.
He worked for ten cents an hour, thirteen to fourteen hours a day, six and seven days a week. Is it any wonder that he saw life in terms of man’s unending struggle against a ruthless nature? Is it any wonder that he saw in socialism a chance for the salvation of others as lost as he had once been? Is it any wonder that he hungered for knowledge and success that would lift him above the degrading plain of poverty? Look, then, to the formative years for a clue to the life and works of Jack London. There you will see the birth of that indomitable spirit which could eventually lead him only to a philosophy of individualism.
In his heart and sympathies Jack London was a socialist; he could not forget the sufferings of his past. But in his mind and actions he struggled — he was an individualist — he could not forget his achievements. Throughout his life he struggled valiantly to reconcile these conflicting philosophies. While he did not live long enough to begin the autobiography his notes indicate he planned to write, we are fortunate that so much of his writing is autobiographical in nature. Oyster pirate, deep-sea sailor, hobo, Alaskan prospector, all these incidents in his life make fascinating reading.
But most important of all Jack London’s adventures was his struggle to become a writer. Without guidance, writing under almost impossible circumstances, for the most part educating himself, and faced with continual economic hardship, he stumbled and groped for three long years in the literary wilderness. In the beginning the rejection slips followed one another with monotonous regularity. Had he been a weaker man he might have succumbed. Certainly the odds were against him. But at the end of his three-year travail success was his. He had conquered his Everest; the world was at his feet!
” He became the highest paid, most popular novelist and short story writer of his day. He wrote passionately and prolifically about the great questions of life and death, the struggle to survive with dignity and integrity, and he wove these elemental ideas into stories of high adventure based on his own first hand experiences at sea, or in Alaska, or in the fields and factories of California. As a result, his writing appealed not to the few, but to millions of people all around the world. Along with his books and stories, however, London was widely known for his personal exploits.
He was a celebrity, a colorful and controversial personality who was often in the news. Generally fun-loving and playful, he could also be combative, and was quick to side with the underdog against injustice or oppression of any kind. He was a fiery and eloquent public speaker, and much sought after as a lecturer on socialism and other economic and political topics. Despite his avowed socialism, most people considered him a living symbol of rugged individualism, a man whose fabulous success was due not to special favor of any kind, but to a combination of unusual mental ability and immense vitality.
Strikingly handsome, full of laughter, restless and courageous to a fault, always eager for adventure on land or sea, he was one of the most attractive and romantic figures of his time. He described his literary success largely to hard work – to “dig,” as he put it. He tried never to miss his early morning 1,000-word writing stint, and between 1900 and 1916 he completed over fifty books, including both fiction and non-fiction, hundreds of short stories, and numerous articles on a wide range of topics.
Several of the books and many of the short stories are classics of their kind, well thought of in critical terms and still popular around the world. Today, almost countless editions of his writings are available and some of them have been translated into as many as seventy different languages. Somehow, he managed to do all these things and still find time to go swimming, horseback riding, or sailing on San Francisco Bay.
He also spent 27 months cruising the South Pacific in the Snark, put in two tours of duty as an overseas war correspondent, traveled widely for pleasure, entertained a continual stream of guests whenever he was at home in Glen Ellen, and did his fair share of barroom socializing and debating. In order to fit all this living into the narrow confines of one lifetime, he often tried to make do with no more than four or five hours of sleep at night. By the age of 29 he was already internationally famous for The Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea-Wolf (1904), and other literary and journalistic accomplishments.
He was divorced from Bessie, his first wife and the mother of his two daughters, Joan and Little Bess, and he had married Charmian (Kittredge). Summary Buck, a physically impressive dog, is living the good life in California when he gets stolen and put into dog slavery. For him, this means pulling a ridiculously heavy sled through miles and miles of frozen ice with little or nothing to eat and frequent beatings. As the definition of a domestic dog, Buck is out of his element until he begins to adapt to his surroundings, and learn from the other dogs.
Buck also starts having strange dreams about the primitive days of dogs and men, before the advent of cities or houses or culture. There are no rules or morality here (interesting, since Buck’s first owner was a judge), save for what is called “the law of club and fang,” a kill-or-be-killed, ruthless way of thinking. Buck becomes involved in a struggle for power with another dog, Spitz. They end up fighting and Buck wins, taking over as leader of the sled dog team. The team changes human management (new drivers) and the new people don’t seem to be very competent.
They’re bad drivers and end up killing everyone, including themselves. Fortunately, Buck is saved by a kind man named John Thornton, moments before the group death in an icy river. Buck becomes attached to Thornton and even saves his life several times. Buck sets off on a journey with his new master and several other men, loving his new life, except for the need to run off and kill things in the woods every once in a while. Buck fights with temptation: stay with Thornton, or kill things? Be civilized, or be wild? And naturally there are several missed phone calls from The Wild and a lot of angry messages (“Where are you already?”).
At the end of Call of the Wild, Thornton is killed by the Yeehat tribe, on which Buck later extracts vengeance. Buck is then free to run with the wild dog packs, but only on the condition that he is leader. Character sketch Thornton Character Analysis Thornton is one of the main human characters in the book. He is important in the life of Buck, but we don’t know much about him. In one sense, Thornton’s role in the story is to help us learn more about Buck – Thornton’s there so we can understand this mysterious call of the wild and why Buck feels torn about whether to stay with humans or go into the wild.
Thornton is both the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Buck and the one thing holding back from his true destiny as a wild dog pack leader. One the one hand, Buck is devoted to Thornton in a way that he is not devoted to anyone or anything else – recall how Buck was willing to jump off a cliff for Thornton. On the other hand, Thornton’s presence is preventing Buck from going off into the wild and answering “the call” that he hears so often. How do you view Thornton’s role in The Call of the Wild? Does he bring out the best in Buck, or does he prevent Buck from realizing his dream?
Or is it both? Francois Character Analysis OK, if you’re having a hard time keeping Francois and Perrault straight, Francois is the Robin character in this Batman and Robin-like team. He doesn’t have Perrault’s brains, and defers to his buddy’s decisions. But Francois is a nice guy, as we see when he uses his own shoes to make moccasins for Buck. In short, we’re partial to the guy, and we feel sorry when Buck parts ways with the two men. Buck’s commentary on how the people in his life are always transient becomes all the more sad for us, because we’ve already gotten to like Francois and Perrault.