The Call of the Wild is a novella by American author Jack London published in 1903. Set during the Alaskan gold rush of 1897, Jack London’s classic adventure story inspired Kerouac and Orwell. In this Folio edition, Abigail Rorer’s drawings depict the fierce beauty of the frozen Yukon. David Vann introduces.
The Call of the Wild opens during the Alaskan gold rush ‘in the fall of 1897, when the Klondike strike dragged men from all the world into the frozen North’. Not just men but dogs are required, strong pack animals with long coats to pull sleighs full of gold ore and provisions. Buck, a 140-pound cross-breed, is stolen from his comfortable home in California and sold into a life of slavery. He is passed from owner to owner, brutally clubbed and whipped, and forced to drag backbreaking loads over thin ice. After being beaten nearly to death, he is rescued by a prospector named John Thornton, who earns Buck’s passionate devotion. In Thornton’s care Buck flourishes, and becomes the most famous pack dog in all Alaska. But when the tie with Thornton is broken, Buck escapes the world of humans and fulfils his destiny to become a leader of wolves.
The story takes place in the extreme conditions of the Yukon during the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, where strong sled dogs were in high demand. After Buck, a domesticated dog, is snatched from a pastoral ranch in California, he is sold into a brutal life as a sled dog. The novella details Buck's struggle to adjust and survive the cruel treatment he receives from humans, other dogs, and nature. He eventually sheds the veneer of civilization altogether and instead relies on primordial instincts and the lessons he has learned to become a respected and feared leader in the wild.
The story was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in the summer of 1903 and released a month later in book form. The great popularity and success of the story made a reputation for London, with much of the story's appeal based on the simplicity with which he presented the themes in an almost mythical manner.