(Originally published March 3, 2009)
I remember reading the abridged version of Jack London’s classic “The Call of the Wild” when I was still in grade school. At the time, I found it fascinating, though I didn’t read the unabridged edition until much later. That said, “The Call of the Wild” is an exciting adventure classic that should be required reading for all American boys.
The story arc is very simple. Buck, a dog, is kidnapped from his California home and sold to Canadian postal workers in the Yukon. There, he meets a variety of other dogs, including his nemesis Spitz. As the book continues, Buck encounters a variety of other characters – human and dog alike – before finally turning his back on civilization and joining a pack of wolves.
London’s characterization is notably excellent. His human protagonists are well-drawn and diverse, as are his canine characters. His prose is fresh and fluid, with none of the tedium encumbering other novels (such as “Moby-Dick”). There’s really very little reason to read an abridged version of this book, especially considering that the story is only about 80 pages long. In fact, I actually stopped watching President Obama’s speech in order to keep reading “The Call of the Wild.”
“The Call of the Wild” is a pure adventure story with very little overarching societal/moral commentary. In a sense, this is somewhat refreshing: one never gets the feeling that Jack London is trying to impart a particular philosophy or mindset. Violence is mostly subdued, which makes the book’s intense climax all the more powerful. There is some mild language, but nothing gratuitous.
Overall, “The Call of the Wild” is worthy of the name “classic.” Simple yet memorable, it will surely continue to captivate its readers’ imaginations for many decades to come.
Well-written and compelling. A must-read for American boys.