To audiences who have been entertained by Rambo-style killings, the violence in The Call of the Wild will seem mild. Nevertheless, the ferocity of the dogs is described vividly and powerfully, as London shows “the law of club and fang” in brutal operation.
Because John Thornton is portrayed as such a kindly and fair man, his unexplained murder by the Yeehats comes as a shock. The murder, however, is part of London’s social message-human beings, as well as animals, can be awfully savage. Buck’s bloodthirsty revenge upon the Yeehats may strike some readers as extreme, but it should inspire discussion about the nature of justice and retribution, and about the values of civilization.
London’s belief in environmental determinism permeates this story. While his Darwinian assumptions may not be shared by all readers, his dramatization of these concepts in The Call of the Wild should provoke thoughtful discussion about the extent to which environment determines character.