Suffering has been a part of human life since the dawn of time.
It is part of our journey in this life. Some suffer less and some suffer more; however, in the end we are destined to suffer no matter what. The Call of the Wild by Jack London emphasizes suffering and gives meaning to such suffering. The novel is about a dog that gets captured and taken into the wild during the time of the Gold Rush. He is faced with unstable conditions where he must either adapt or die. Buck overcomes his suffering because he adapts to his new conditions and because of this he reaches his full potential.Buck’s life was very effortless and comfortable before he was kidnapped.
In the beginning of the book, the author gives us a sense that Buck lived a very good life. London describes how wealthy the land where he lived was and then he affirms that: “Over this great demesne Buck ruled… The whole realm was his. ” (London 3) This quote shows how much prestige Buck had as a dog living with the Judge. Buck also escorted the Judge’s daughter’s and at night he rested by the fireplace where he was kept warm. Buck’s luxurious lifestyle before the kidnapping is what makes his story so great.Buck lived a comfortable life and he was never challenged to build his potential, however because of his primitive instincts that lived inside of him he was never fully domesticated. The author points out in the beginning of the story that Buck: “Had saved himself by not becoming a mere pampered house dog.
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Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had kept down the fat and hardened his muscles; and to him, as to the cold-tubbing races, the love of water had been a tonic and a health preserver. ” (London 4) This shows the primitive side of Buck, his strength, and cunning.Although he had the life of a domesticated pet he never fully became domestic, because of his deep instincts that raged inside of him is a foreshadowing to what he was to become in the future. Even though he was never challenged, his instincts that eventually leads to his transformation kept him hunting in which resulted in his strength that would eventually cause him to become the wolf he were destined to be. The Call of the Wild’s theme of the transformation of Buck from a civilized dog to a primitive wolf is inevitable. Through constant foreshadowing the author shows Buck’s ancient primitive instincts that lead up this transformation.Even the name of the book refers to the calling of Buck’s long dead instincts to the wild.
The foreshadowing of his instincts that lead to his transformation is expressed by the London: “[Each] day mankind and the claims of mankind slipped farther from him. Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire, and to plunge into the forest” (London 121) Although his love for his owner John Thornton was genuine his instincts kept calling him to the wild that reveals to the audience the transformation that would eventually occur.However I feel that Jack London’s story about the transformation and suffering of Buck is much deeper than the literal meaning of the novel. The first suffering Buck experiences is betrayal. Buck always had a faith and respect for humans. However, this was soon to change when Manuel, the Judge’s gardener, decides to kidnap Buck to sell him, so he could pay for his gambling debt. When he gets captured by Manuel with a rope the author states that at first: “Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dignity… He had learned to trust in men he knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom that outreached his own.
(London 5) However he soon realized that the man was actually trying to do him harm and as London states in the same page: “But to his surprise the rope tightened around his neck, shutting off his breath. ” (London 5). The pain Buck suffered was more mentally than physically because it was not just the rope around his neck shutting off his breath; it was his first suffering and his first betrayal by a human. This was Buck’s first lesson in the wild that he had to learn; never to trust men again. Through Buck’s suffering he changes his outlook on the world and begins a quest for his transformation.As Siddharta said: “Life is suffering” we either accept the suffering of this life adapting to the surroundings or we let our surroundings control our fate. As Buck suffered he learned little by little to change to his surroundings.
After Buck gets captured by Manuel, he is sold to a “man with a red sweater” that eventually beats down buck; this is his first physical suffering. The author describes that Buck: “Was beaten (he knew that); but he was not broken. He saw, once for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He had learned the lesson, and in his life after his captivation he never forgot it.That club was a revelation. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law, and he met the introduction halfway. The facts of life took on a fiercer aspect and while he faced that aspect uncowed, he faced it with all the latent cunning of his nature aroused” (London 14).
Buck suffering makes him change his outlook on life in which causes him to transform. First mentally when he realized he could not trust men, and then physically when he was beaten by a man in a red sweater. The betrayal of Manuel and the beating Buck receives shows another side of humanity that Buck had never experienced before.This was just the beginning of his sufferings, yet we see that Buck has an epiphany that enlightens him to realize that he needs to adapt to his surroundings in order to survive. What made Buck different from all the other dogs was simply his ability to adapt. He adapted to his surroundings and quickly learned what to do and what he should not do. We see a different attitude in Buck in the beginning of Chapter 3 compared to the beginning of the story as London writes: “The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck… His newborn cunning gave him poise and control.
He was too busy adjusting himself to the new life to feel at ease, and not only did he not pick fights, but he avoided them whenever possible. Certain deliberateness characterized his attitude. He was not prone to rashness and precipitate action” (London 33) We see a different attitude in Buck compared to the beginning of the story in which shows that Buck was already adapting to his surroundings and slowly transforming into his fuller potential. In the beginning he was foolish to attack the man over and over again just to be beaten every time but now he was wiser than that.Buck had much more than physical strength that caused him to stand out. He had something the other dogs did not have, the ability to adapt and observe all of his surroundings. The author describes that: “Not only [Buck] learn[ed] by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again.
The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. . . . Thus, as token of what a puppet thing life is the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again” (London 40).London explains that as time went by his true self became more vivid in Buck and this was possible because of the suffering that lead to his transformation.
Buck understood in a deeper level the meaning of suffering that the other dogs did not. In addition to what we saw earlier Buck always had a primitive leader personality that only needed to be molded for him to unleash his potential. Buck took all the circumstances of his life as a challenge and embraced the suffering; that is what made him different. We as human beings can use Buck as an example to live our lives.Just as Buck overcame the challenges of the wilderness to reach his fullest potential we also can overcome the challenges of everyday life and not give up because of the circumstances that we face daily. A real life example can be a man who tries to go to college to earn a degree but because of the difficulty and the circumstances he drops out and chooses to accept a lower standard of living, or in a more tragic example someone who is fed up with life and commits suicide. In The Call of the Wild through the lenses of Jack London these people are considered those who could not adapt and did not become their unleashed potential selves.
Survival of the fittest is not a matter of only physical strength but adaptation. An example of this is Buck’s fight with Spitz. Although Spitz seemed to have more strength than Buck, what made Buck win over him was his continuous effort to adapt that led him to a stronger self. As Winston Churchill said, “Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential”. As we saw through the story what made Buck so great is that he never gave up. Jack London makes known to his audience that the suffering that Buck experiences is necessary for him to reach his potential.Buck was meant to be a leader and his leadership had to be unleashed and molded by his experience and his adaptation through the circumstances of the wild.
Slowly Buck’s wild and leader mentality starts to be carved out by his experiences and through the circumstances that in the end help him develop into his full potential as a dog. London states that Buck was taking orders by a Scotch half-breed and “Buck did not like it, but he bore up well to the work, taking pride in it after the manner of Dave and Sol-leks, and seeing that his mates, where they prided in it or not, did their fair share. (London 61) This reveals to us that Buck was not ready from the start to be a leader. He first had to experience being the lowest to eventually be strong enough to rise up to lead. London continues to say that: “Three battles with the fiercest [dogs] brought Buck to mastery. ” (London 62) It gives us an understanding that Buck’s journey to his full potential was a hard one that was built in by experiences that came in progressively not instantaneously. Suffering changes Buck’s behavior and it disciplines him to become a better dog.
IfBuck had never left his home he would have never progressed into being the leader and alpha dog he became to be by the end of the story. In addition he would have never experienced true love that he eventually feels by John Thornton. “The person, who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live” said Leo F. Buscaglia. As this quote explains, it is better for us to suffer to better ourselves than to not suffer and remain the same. To live is to suffer as we said, but to live is also to learn.
Buck always had the mentality that he had to continue to learn and grow to overcome his obstacles. He never became so proud that he stopped growing and learning. He was humble enough to always search and observe for new ways to improve his ability as the alpha dog. In every circumstance Buck had to do what was necessary to survive, for example when he had to figure out a way to sleep despite the frozen cold, or when he realized he had to eat faster before the other dogs could get his food. The author explains: “His development (or retrogression) was rapid. His muscles became hard as iron, and he grew callous to all ordinary pain.He achieved an internal as well as external economy.
He could eat anything, no matter how loathsome or indigestible; and, once eaten, the juices of his stomach extracted the last least particle of nutriment. ” (London 30). Through his observations and continuous effort to change and learn he overmatched every dog that he was with because of his ability to change and adapt into his surroundings. By the end of the story Buck had grown mentally, physically, and emotionally. One thing Buck was able to achieve in the wild was love. Before he meets John Thornton he did not love any of his masters including the Judge but only respected them.Buck’s love for John was so great that it kept him from running to the wild as London states: “But as often as he gained the soft unbroken earth and the green shade, the love of John Thornton drew him back to the fire again.
” (London 95) Not only were his muscles more developed and more physically powerful, he was also mentally more aware and emotionally capable of love. The author states the depth of Buck’s love for John: “When Thornton passed a caressing hand along his back, a snapping and crackling followed the hand, each hair discharging its pent magnetism at the contact.Between all the parts there was a perfect equilibrium or adjustment. ” (London 125) All that he went through caused him to experience new things that eventually lead him to his fullest potential. However the last suffering Buck had to suffer was to lose the one he loved so he can finally go into the wild; to the place he was born to be. If Buck had continued in his privileged life he would have never experienced the thrill, the love and all the emotions he was now experiencing. We should not see Buck’s life as a tragedy but as a victory.
London describes that “[Buck] loved to run down dry watercourses, and to creep and spy upon the bird life in the woods. ” (London 119) All this shows the beauty of nature that Buck was able to experience at his full potential. London continues to explain that: “His cunning was wolf cunning, and wild cunning; his intelligence, shepherd intelligence and Saint Bernard intelligence; and all this plus an experience gained in the fiercest of schools, made him as formidable a creature as any that roamed the wild. (London 118) The love of John towards Bucks allows the unleashing of Buck’s ultimate self. In conclusion, what can we say about Jack London’s view on suffering? That through suffering we live and learn and by learning we grow to our fullest potential. It is important to learn through this book and to put ourselves in Buck’s situation. Would we have come out on top just as he did? Or would we have given up? It is also important to try to see how things could have ended for Buck had he given up.
However, this story speaks about more than just the sufferings of a dog.In the real-world, we try to avoid suffering as much as possible, what London is trying to convey is that suffering Is an inevitable part of life that, instead of trying to avoid, we should embrace and learn from it and that the sufferings in life builds our character to make us stronger, allowing us to reach our fullest potential as human beings to be the people we were created to be. Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild, is an inspiring story that shows us that both perseverance and learning from our experiences can helps us grow into our fullest potential.
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