General Summary of “Call of the Wild”
From Lap Dog to Lead Dog
Buck lives with Judge Miller in California, a lapdog with all of the comforts that the judge can provide him with. When gold is discovered in Canada, Buck’s life changes forever. Judge Miller’s gardener sells Buck to dog traders, who beat Buck and treat him cruelly. Francois and Perrault, two mail carriers in Canada, buy Buck from the traders. Buck learns how to work with the rest of the pack, and he is appalled by the violence that he sees among the dogs. Spitz, the lead dog of the pack, is especially violent, and slowly Spitz and Buck become rivals. Eventually, Buck kills Spitz and becomes the lead dog of the pack, helping them to make the trip in record time.
From Bad to Worse
Francois and Perrault sell Buck to another mail carrier who works the dogs harder. Then, however, the worst happens. Buck is sold yet again – this time to three gold hunters who know little about surviving in the North. Hal, Charles, and Mercedes make a number of mistakes. They work the team too hard, pack too little food, overload the sled, and fight amongst themselves. The dogs on the team begin to starve, and one by one, they die off.
The team meets John Thornton on the way to their destination, and he warns them not to move forward, as the ice ahead is very thin. Hal ignores his advance and orders the team to proceed. Buck, however, feels that something is wrong ahead, and he refuses. Hal beats Buck, and Thornton saves him. The rest of the team moves ahead and is swallowed when the ice breaks beneath them.
The Call of the Wild
Buck becomes extremely loyal to Thornton, and he wins a bet for Thornton through pure strength and devotion. Slowly, however, Buck feels a pull towards the wild areas beyond the camp. When Thornton is killed by Yeehat Indians, Buck escapes into the wild and becomes the leader of a pack of wild wolves.
This plot summary of “Call of the Wild” is just a summary of the main events of the novel. For details about the characters in the novel, see the other article in this series.