The Call of the Wild, by Jack London is a celebrated Classic in American Literature and considered to be his masterpiece. The novel was first published in 1903 in the Saturday Evening Post in a serialized version. It was received with great enthusiasm and within the same year, Macmillan Publishers published it. Thereafter, Jack London became a national sensation.
"The Call of the Wild" is set in Canada during the 1897 Gold Rush and brings the Klondike region alive. The main character is Buck, a magnificent dog, half St. Bernard and half sheepdog, who has been stolen from his home in California's Santa Clara Valley and then sold to traffickers of sled dogs.
The story portrays life in the wild North and the mental transition and transformation that Buck experiences throughout his struggle for survival in this environment. He learns to cope with numerous hardships and finally becomes the champion and master of his fate.
In the beginning of the novel, Buck is introduced as a delicate, sophisticated yet innocent dog. He is used to being treated with dignity and respect and has been raised to be trustful of men and their wisdom. When he is uprooted from his home, he is startled to learn the inhumane side of mankind. He experiences brutal beatings in order to be 'broken' into submission. He is shocked to see a good-natured dog, torn to pieces by a pack of huskies, and the incident considered as a sporting event by the men who witness the scene. Within this harsh environment, Buck learns the laws of survival.
He is forced to become a sled dog and traverses thousands of miles through the snow packed north. He learns to master his adversities as well adversaries and enjoys the challenge of work. His new life changes his mental and emotional outlook and his concept of what is right and what is wrong. He learns that mercy and fair play belong only to the civilized world and that in this environment mercy is mistaken for cowardice and awarded with death. The rule is "kill or be killed". Even stealing is justified if it means staying alive. Being caught alone is sin!
The memories of civilization start to fade and are replaced with feelings of a life that seems to reach further back into Buck's past. His primitive wolf-like nature emerges and he becomes restless and often wishes to escape into the wild.
He passes through the hands of some worthless prospectors, but is rescued from near disaster, by Thornton - a magnificent man of the Wilds. The two become intensely attached to one another. This friendship is short lived when death strikes his master. Unfortunately, Thornton is killed by Yaheets during one of his gold digging expeditions.
With the passing away of his master, "all calls of Man and his Kind", drop away from Buck and he feels totally free. Buck becomes a Wolf and the dreaded leader of a pack responding and in tune with the "Call of the Wild" which had been lurking within him. His life is thereafter chronicled by the Yaheets and he becomes a legendary figure, known as the magnificent Phantom.