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'Call of the Wild' and 'White Fang' by Jack London

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writerinthenorth
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'Call of the Wild' and 'White Fang' by Jack London

Post by writerinthenorth » Fri August 10th, 2012, 9:32 am

I followed up my recent reading of 'White Fang' with rereading of the earlier Jack London novel 'Call of the Wild', and they made an interesting comparison. There was something slightly more anthropomorphic about 'Call of the Wild' and certainly more emphasis on the bond between Buck and his various human owners (especially his last owner John Thornton). The climax of this novel, where Buck finally answers the 'call' and joins the wild wolves, anticipates the 'White Fang' story which is darker and closer to nature.

Despite stylistic faults in both novels, I would say that the writing is richer in 'White Fang' (if ponderous on occasion) but some of the set-piece incidents in 'Call of the Wild' - such as Thornton's wager that Buck could singlehandedly break out a thousand pound sled load and pull it one hundred yards - are as exciting as I remember them as a boy reader.

In 'White Fang' the later chapters in particular are too obviously allegorical and predictable - but it is equally rugged, energetic and thrilling. London excels at seeing the world through the dog wolf's eyes, and he also manages the difficult and necessary task of shifting the narrative viewpoint occasionally to move the story along at critical points.

With both books he is least successful with his human portrayals, especially the dialogue which reads as if it has been written on cardboard with too thick a pen, but he is entirely at home in the Yukon where it stands on the cusp between traditional existence and 'civilisation' in the trail of the gold rush. His evocation of the animal and human struggles in these harsh surroundings - with very survival constantly under threat - is supremely vivid and vital, inked as it were in blood.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri August 10th, 2012, 4:40 pm

I have always loved Jack London's stories -- even though I'm not a particular fan of the novel-as-philosophy style of literature. As a trainer, I can say that London gets the animal viewpoint very well. His human viewpoints reflect that--he seems to see them as an animal would, i.e. 'good, useful' or 'enemy, kill it'. Very much a product of the Darwinian thinking of his age.

writerinthenorth
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Post by writerinthenorth » Mon August 13th, 2012, 11:00 am

Oh yes, I hadn't considered how important the influence of Darwin would be for London at that time. Thanks for that.

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