Overview of "The Call of the Wild"

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Author: Chloe Bolan
Editors: Marie Rose Napierkowski and Deborah A. Stanley
Date: 2000
From: Novels for Students(Vol. 8. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,411 words

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Bolan is an adjunct English instructor at the College of Lake County and Columbia College of Missouri extensions, a playwright, short story writer, poet, and essayist. In the following essay she speculates on why The Call of the Wild is one of the most popular American novels in the world.

Jack London's Call of the Wild, one of the most widely read American novels in the world, seems a strange choice for this distinction. The setting is the wilderness of the Klondike region, the protagonist is a dog, and the theme of the novel is devolution of the protagonist. Yet these are the same elements that garnered fame for the novel when it was first published in 1903; and these same elements continue to attract readers almost a century later.

In the late 1800s the Klondike region was swept by a gold rush. Gold had been found in California in 1848, and later in British Columbia, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Yet this rush was in Alaska, purchased from Russia thirty years earlier in 1867, and Canada's Yukon Territory, and rivaled all previous gold rushes. It had formidable challenges, though; not only the forbidding cold, but also the uncharted geography made it a treacherous choice for the unprepared prospector. Still, many answered the call of quick money, including the young Jack London.

Although London staked a claim which he later abandoned, he was awed by the natural beauty he found in the ice-locked rivers and snow-encrusted mountains, in the spring thaw and sudden summer blooms, in the abundance of animal life from king salmon in the streams to caribou and bear on the plains to sheep and goats in the highlands. Before a year was up, London returned to his California home with debilitating scurvy. Yet he had found gold: his visions of the Klondike, the tales from the sourdoughs or old-timers, and his own intense experiences gave him enough material to write brilliant stories including his most masterful of all, The Call of the Wild.

Most early readers of the novel were content to curl up in a warm...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420031075