Literary Qualities

The Call of the Wild exemplifies the features of a turn-of-the-century movement known as literary naturalism: the story is presented realistically and directly, and dramatizes the force of environment in shaping character. The Call of the Wild is widely acclaimed as London’s best work of fiction. The author’s firm control of the plot and focused point of view give the story its remarkable coherence. London’s diction is unusually rich, full of complex and mellifluous words. His style is lean and vigorous, and grows increasingly resonant with mystical overtones near the end of the book.

An often-cited literary precedent to The Call of the Wild is Frank Norris’s 1899 novel McTeague. Norris’s work traces the downfall of a San Francisco dentist who inevitably destroys himself and those around him when his alcoholism and violent tendencies erupt. Like Norris, London explores the hidden character traits, triggered by interaction with one’s environment, that determine an individual’s fate.

Many readers have found allegories for human experience in Buck’s struggles. Some see The Call of the Wild as a fable of sorts, for, like Aesop’s fables, the novel tells the story of an animal who triumphs through strength and cunning. Other readers, like critic Earle Labor, describe Buck as a mythic hero who sets out on a perilous adventure, journeys to a mysterious, faraway place, and is thoroughly transformed.

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