Comparing Jack London's Call of the Wild, White Fang, and To Build a Fire

Categories: Call of the wild

Three of Jack London's most famous stories were The Call of the Wild , White Fang and To Build a Fire. Though they are completely unrelated stories they have many similarities unfolded were also similar. Both animals started their lives out in a very normal fashion but then they were brought into a different environment and forced to change. In To Build a Fire the man is the one being forced to change, without success.

The introduction of characters was also similar the way they were led through life not knowing what there purpose was until they met their final character and then figured out what they had to do.

Three of Jack London's most famous stories were The Call of the Wild , White Fang and To Build a Fire. Though they are completely unrelated stories they have many similarities that I found unique. Along with many similarities in the plot there were many similarities in the characters, human and animal, which make these three stories the topic of this paper.

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"Jack London was both an outdoorsman and a writer and that combination was what made his novels so realistic."(Labor 124). Jack London born on January 12, 1876 to W. H. Chaney and Flora Wellman. He finished his second novel and short story, The Call of the Wild, and To Build a Fire in 1904. Two years later he finished another of his most famous novels White Fang. His inspiration for these novels and short story came from the time he spent up in the Klondike that became the basis for these three works.

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Till the day of his death, from a long battle with throat cancer, these were some of the famous works of the time ever written.

The Call of the Wild was Jack London's most famous novel, 'This is the novel that separated London from all writers of that era."(Lundquist 35) Written in 1904 it was a story about a dog who was brought into Klondike to pull sleds during the gold rush. The name Call of the Wild comes from the natural instinct that animals have to be free in nature. The main characters in this story are Buck a four-yearold half Saint Bernard and half-Scottish shepherd, John Thorton. Buck was stolen from his home in California during the goldrush in the Klondike. Dogs were a necessity and considering the size of Buck he had the makings of a great sled-dog. Being thrown into a totally different environment, Buck encounters such problems as, how to stay warm by burrowing into the snow to sleep, how to survive the lack of daily meals, and how to rely on his native and natural instincts. Buck soon becomes one of the most dominant dogs on the sled team. After living like a wild, independent animal for weeks upon weeks he soon learns to fend for himself. He becomes more familiar with killing animals for food and the primordial beast inside him begins to take over.

He is no longer a domesticated animal but a wild dog. He soon becomes the leader of his pack of sled-dogs by beating the former leader, Spitz in a fight. Buck becomes such a popular sled-dog in the Klondike that he was admired by all. That is when The Scottish half-breed bought him and used Buck for many endurance and strength contests. This over work almost killed the dog. Buck was saved from this inhumane treatment by a man named John Thorton whom he grew to love. Through complete devotion Buck risked his life for John but did not succeed because John was killed. After this with having no more attachments Buck went to live with a pack of wolves. Buck was no longer a pet but a wild nimal. Realism is also a major part of the novel. It is in no way padded with goodness to leave the reader with a warm sensation in his heart. At times, the way in which beatings of the dogs are described makes the reader want to close the book (Kennedy 345) White Fang was Jack London's next novel once again was inspired by his life in the Klondike and the relationship between man and beast. This novels' main character was White Fang who is threequarters gray wolf and one-quarter dog this is who story revolves around. Mit-sah and Gray Beaver the Indians who were responsible for training White Fang and Weedon Scott who develops a special relationship with White Fang are also important characters of the novel.

The story is set in the Klondike during the gold rush and revolves around the sled dogs and how they are lured by the female wolves in the wild and killed. One occasion the sled dog mated with the female wolf and White fang was born. The mother wolf and her cub White Fang wander into an Indian camp where White Fang was taken and raised by Mit-sah and Gray Beaver. White Fang began to learning to be domesticated and became a great pet for the Indians. Gray Beaver, who was addicted to alcohol, then traded White Fang to an evil man named Beauty Smith. Smith would use White fang to win money by entering him in fights. He almost killed the dog until a young man named Weedon Scott stepped in and took White Fang away for the fighting and the cruel treatments he was receiving. When Weedon first took the dog, White Fang was a mean, vicious animal but the two soon began to bond and White Fang was starting to turn back into a domesticated animal. The story ends with White Fang going back to California with Weedon and becoming a domesticated pet.

To Build a Fire continuously expresses the man's dwindling warmth and bad luck in his journey along the Yukon trail to meet his friends at camp. London associates dying with the man's diminishing ability to stay warm in the frigid Alaskan climate. The main characters predicament slowly worsens one level at a time finally resulting in death. The character informs the reader Ithe man" lacks personal experience traveling in the Yukon terrain. The old-timer warned the man about the harsh realities of the Klondike. The confident main character thinks of the old-timer at Sulphur Creek as "womanish."

Along the trail, character falls into a hidden spring and attempts to build a fire to dry his socks and warm himself. With his wet feet quickly growing numb, he realizes he has only one chance to successfully build a fire or face the harsh realities of the Yukon at one-hundred nine degrees below freezing. Falling snow from a tree blots out the fire and the character realizes that this has just signed his own death sentence. IJack London introduces death to the reader in this final scenes.l (Encarta 32) The man realizes a second fire must be built. The man's mind begins to run wild with thoughts of insecurity and death when the second fire fails. He recollects the story of a man who kills a steer to stay warm and envisions himself killing his dog and crawling into the carcass to warm up so he can build a fire to save himself. London writes, "a certain fear of death, dull and oppressive, came to him." 

As the man slowly freezes, he realizes he is in serious trouble and can no longer make excuses for himself. He begins to acknowledge that he would never get to the camp and would soon would be dead. He tries to clear this morbid thought from his mind by running down the trail in a last ditch effort to pump blood through his extremities. The climax of the story describes the character as completely exhausted, his body completely frozen on the trail. He falls into the snow thinking. He is bound to freeze anyway and freezing was not as bad as people thought. There were a lot worse ways to die. The man drowsed off into the most comfortable and satisfying sleep he had ever known. The dog looked on creeping closer, filling his nostrils with the smell of death.

London's portrayal of the man does not initially give the reader the theme of dying, but slowly develops the theme as the story develops. The story doesn't mention death until the last several pages. The main character changes from an enthusiastic pioneer to a sad and desperate man. The conclusion of the story portrays the man accepting his fate and understands the old-timer at Sulphur Creek had been right; "no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below." Typically, short stories written in the early 1900's often conclude the story with a death or tragedy. To Build a Fire is no exception.

These three works are similar in many ways. IThe way London develops these animals with anthropomorphic characteristic makes him one of the most creative writers of his time."(Labor 69) Anthropomorphic means attributing human qualities to an animal, and this is seen in both novels. London did switch the beginning and outcome of the two animals this is seen by Buck going from a domesticated animal to a wild beast and White Fang went from a wild animal to a domesticated pet. In this case only To Build a Fire lacks a similarity. Not only are the settings similar but the time period and the major concern during that time period were the same, the gold-rush. The ways the storyuck it was to go out and live with the wolves and be a wild animal. The man was to die at the expense of his own ignorance. The main and final similarity was the relationship between man and beast. White Fang learned to understand humans and decided that it was his goal in life to be one with them. Buck learned that his purpose in life was to be a wild animal and be as far away from humans as possible. In To Build a Fire the main character, not suited for the harsh environment dies, while his dog designed to survive in the cold, lives on.

Jack London wrote these works with the basis of trying to compare the differences of animals to man placed into different situations with nature. His main point in these three works was to express that animals can be changed trough the interference of human contact, and a few humans change with interaction with animals in their environment. Sometimes humans can domesticate a wild animal so they are at one together but sometimes they can take a domesticated animal and put then in a situation where they have no choice but to be wild to survive. Man the a survivor in his own right must learn from the animals suited for live in harsh areas, in order to survive. If man can recognize this then not only he learn but develop himself to be as efficient of a survivor.

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Comparing Jack London's Call of the Wild, White Fang, and To Build a Fire. (2022, Apr 03). Retrieved from

Comparing Jack London's Call of the Wild, White Fang, and To Build a Fire essay
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