Call of the Wild - White Fang (Review)

Labels: Great Works


The Call of the Wild and White Fang
Jack London, 1903, 1906
304 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
March 2009

If you love dogs, really love dogs, you'll find Jack London's two novellas terrific reads. London tells both stories from the point of view of the dog (or wolfdog), and strangely enough it well that it's hard to put the either book down.

London can be raw, evoking Tennyson's "nature, red in tooth and claw" and evolution's brutal survival of the fittest. The dogs in both stories undergo cruelty by humans and rival dogs, violence London doesn't shy away from describing. Yet both fight ferociously to gain mastery over their rivals. It's a ferocity and dominance London openly celebrates as a reflection of primitive strength and will.

In Call of the Wild, London considers the same issues as in Edgar Sawtelle— (above) the thin veneer of civilization that overlays an instinctive call of the wild. Buck hears the call, reverting back to his atavistic self and the life of his primal forbearers.

White Fang is the reverse: the wolfdog (he is 1/4 dog) willingly dons the mantle of civilization, putting aside his defensive savagery learned at the hands of humans. In fact, in this novella London considers the extent to which both animals and humans are formed by their experiences in the world. Cruelty begets cruelty; kindness, kindness.

These are interesting, compelling works and are particularly good when read in tandem.


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