By Jack London
The setting of this story is a small town somewhere in America. A judge owns a dog called Buck. The manservant of the judge's family is low on funds, so he sells the dog to some shady men, who put him in a box cart. One of the men tries to take the leash off the dog, and Buck bites and maims his hand. After a while, they arrive at their destination and Buck is transferred to another cart and is put in a cage, after two days, Buck arrives in Seattle along with the men.
The action starts when the manservant steals Buck.
In Seattle, Buck is beaten up by a man in a red jacket who then proceeds to sell him to a Canadian for three hundred dollars, along with another dog. The man led the dogs to a ship that was headed for Alaska. On the ship, Buck meets three dogs which will be his companions. One of them is like him and is friends with him, one is always tired, and the other one is a food thief. After a few days of riding on the ship, they arrive at their destination, and Buck sees snow for the first time ever.
When Buck and his friends arrive, they are tied to a sled and driven to Dyea. In this town, one of the dogs approaches a strange dog and gets bitten to death. Many of the huskies of the town ran to the body and started eating it, and it took two minutes to separate them from their food.
The first few days were hard for Buck because he did not know where to sleep since he was used to sleeping in his master's home. One night, he falls into a hole where all of his friends are sleeping, so he decides that he shall stay with them. Over the weeks, more and more dogs join the pack, and he befriends them all.
One day, while on a sledding mission on the frozen Lake Le Barge, Buck is attacked by one of his fellow sled dogs who hated him. Buck fights back and wins, but gets bitten in the neck. One night, Buck makes a small hole where he can sleep, and after that, he leaves it to get food. When he comes back, he finds it inhabited by his sworn enemy. He starts fighting the lone wolf, but soon their camp gets overrun by Indian huskies. These huskies eat everything that is edible and some things that were not, and while fighting against the Indian huskies, Buck is bitten in the neck by his rival once again.
One day, Buck and his pack are chasing a rabbit along with fifty of the Indian's huskies near Dawson city. Buck's rival, Spritz, runs ahead and jumps on the poor animal and breaks its spine in half. Buck charges ahead and hits the other dog with his shoulder, and brings him to the ground. Spritz bites Buck over and over again, but our hero gets the upper hand. Buck breaks both of his rival's legs and then lets the huskies come and kill him.
When Buck's masters see that Spritz does not come back to camp after the chase, they believe that Buck had slain his rival. They put him as the lead dog, and with him in this position they make record time across Alaska. After a few days of sledding, Buck's owner has to go to his home in Canada, so he sells his sled dog team to the post office, which was owned by a Scotch man.
After a few days, one of the dogs who was named Dave became sick and whimpers whenever the mailmen were driving the sled. The Scotch man tries putting the dog in the sled so that it can take a break. Dave does not let any one take him away from his position. The mail men believe that Dave will die, so they untie him, and take him far away. When they arrive at their previous campsite, they shoot Dave, then go back to the sleds.
After the ride, the dogs and their masters arrive in a city where the dogs are sold to three Americans. These people load up their sled, and try driving it downhill. It was full to the brim with random things that the Americans had brought, so it capsized, forcing the Americans to sell many of their things, such as their tent, and some of their food.
The Americans get on the sled and start on the trail. They soon see that it is futile to go on the trail because the dogs are all tired from the previous day's ride, so they let them rest for a few minutes. After a day on the trail, five of their dogs die due to the shortage of rations. When one of the Americans, who is named Mercedes, sees that the dogs are starving, she steals some fish from the sled to give to them.
After a few days on the road, the rations disappear and the dogs have to eat some dry horse skin to keep themselves alive. The Americans no longer show any mercy to the dogs, so they whip them to go faster than they can.
One day, the dogs and the sled fall into a river because they are going too fast downhill. A man named John Thornton jumps into the freezing river and saves Buck, thus earning his respect. Thornton takes Buck home, and takes care of him.
Some of Thornton's friends arrive in a raft, and they take the dogs down the river. On one of the trails that Buck and his master are exploring, out of jest, Thornton tells Buck to jump off a cliff, and Buck almost obeys, but is stopped by his master.
In a bar, the next day, Thornton is punched by a man, so Buck jumps on the ruffian, biting his neck. The people in the bar carry the dog away, and the man lives. The town council decides that Buck is not guilty, thus letting him go away unharmed.
One day, Jack and his friends are docking their raft, Jack trips and falls into the fast flowing river, so Buck jumps in after him. The man grabs Buck's tail and tells him to paddle to shore. Buck tries but fails, so Jack grabs a boulder jutting out of the water, and waits for his friends to save them. Everyone agrees that the man and the dog need to rest, so they make camp right there. In the process of "saving" Jack, Buck had broken his ribs, so the men waited for him to get better before continuing on their journey through Alaska.
After a few days, Buck's ribs feel better, so they go on their way. The way Thornton chooses is a trail that no one had yet completed. On the way up, the travelers see a broken down shack, where Thornton sees a shotgun among the ruins. He picks it up, and they keep going on a trail until they arrive at a good camping spot. They stop here and Buck dreams about a hairy neanderthal making friends with him.
Buck and his friend, John Thornton, are attacked by the Yeehat Indian tribe. After his master is killed, Buck leaves the location of his master's death behind, and becomes wild.
Buck sees another wolf, so he follows it, but soon loses its trail. He hunts a moose, and kills it, and has enough food to last him for a long time. He kills a wolf pack's two leaders and becomes the sole alpha of that pack.
Buck lives happily ever after in the wild.
The main theme of this book is freedom, and the minor themes are exploitation and friendship.
When Buck's master dies, the dog leaves without a second thought. He could have gone back to the human society to find a new friend, but instead of that, he wanted to be free. This shows that probably Buck wanted freedom more than he wanted to have a human friend. The title of the story, "The Call of The Wild," suggests that Buck had the call of the wild inside of him. Also, Buck experiencing the cruelty of men likely wanted to be free of it, so when he had a chance he took it.
We do not know if Buck's first master loved him, but his last master loved him for sure. Thornton, Buck's last master, did not drive him hard, and gave him sufficient rest for the next trip, this shows Thornton's love for him. The relationship between Buck and Thornton represents the theme of friendship between a pet and his master in the book.
Buck is forced to trek while dragging a heavy sled many miles, and sometimes when he is not even strong enough to do it. When he tries to take some extra food for himself, his American master whips him. This bad experience introduces us to the theme of captivity and exploitation of dogs.