"Call of the Wild": Literary Analysis of Themes and Character Development

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Jack London's novel "The Call of the Wild" is a gripping exploration of the relationship between humans and nature, as well as an intricate character study of Buck, a domesticated dog turned wild. This literary analysis essay delves into the novel's key themes, including the primal instincts of survival, the clash between civilization and wilderness, and the transformation of Buck as a central character. By analyzing London's storytelling techniques, we gain insights into the deeper layers of this classic tale.

Primal Instincts and Survival

At its core, "The Call of the Wild" examines the primal instincts of survival that reside within every living creature. Through Buck's journey from a comfortable domestic life to the brutal wilderness of the Yukon, London highlights how the primitive instincts that have been suppressed by civilization resurface in the face of adversity. Buck's adaptation to the wild environment taps into his ancestral memories, demonstrating the enduring power of nature's influence.

London's portrayal of Buck's interactions with other dogs and humans reveals the constant struggle for dominance and resources, emphasizing the raw realities of survival. Buck's transformation from a pampered pet to a fierce and capable leader reflects the universal truth that beneath the veneer of civilization, innate instincts remain dormant, waiting for the right circumstances to awaken.

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Civilization versus Wilderness

"The Call of the Wild" delves into the conflict between the comforts of civilization and the unforgiving wilderness. The novel contrasts Buck's life in the Judge's home with his experiences in the wild, presenting civilization as a veneer that can be stripped away to reveal the underlying wildness in all creatures. The wild environment serves as a catalyst for self-discovery, forcing characters to confront their true natures.

Likewise, London's portrayal of human characters, such as the gold seekers and Hal's group, underscores the destructive impact of greed and ignorance on the harmony of the natural world. The novel suggests that the wilderness is a space of authenticity, where the laws of survival reign supreme and characters must shed the trappings of civilization to thrive.

Buck's Transformation and Growth

Buck's transformation is the heart of the novel, symbolizing the broader theme of adapting to change and embracing one's true nature. Buck evolves from a domesticated dog who relies on his human masters to a formidable leader in the wild, guided solely by his instincts. His encounters with harsh environments, brutal treatment, and primal challenges shape his character, leading to a profound internal change.

London's meticulous attention to Buck's experiences, emotions, and thoughts allows readers to witness his inner journey. Buck's gradual regression to his ancestral instincts and his eventual integration into a wolf pack are not merely a physical transformation but also a spiritual and emotional one. This transformation underscores the novel's exploration of the timeless struggle between nature and nurture.

Conclusion: Nature's Unyielding Influence

"The Call of the Wild" remains a compelling literary work due to its exploration of primal instincts, the clash between civilization and wilderness, and Buck's transformation. Jack London's evocative prose and vivid descriptions draw readers into Buck's world, allowing them to empathize with his experiences and contemplate their own connections to the natural world.

The novel reminds us that beneath the veneer of societal norms, the call of the wild persists within all living beings. The struggle for survival and the search for one's true identity are timeless themes that resonate with readers across cultures and generations. Ultimately, "The Call of the Wild" serves as a timeless reminder of nature's unyielding influence on the human psyche and the enduring power of the wild within us all.


  • London, J. (1903). The Call of the Wild. Macmillan.
  • Lundin, A. (1990). Jack London: A Writer's Fight for a Better America. University of Illinois Press.
  • Stasz, C. (2009). Jack London A Life. Macmillan.
  • Lehan, R. (1999). The City in Which I Love You: American Literature and the Idea of Home. NYU Press.
  • Michaels, W. B. (2004). Unbecoming. Duke University Press.
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“Call of the Wild”: Literary Analysis of Themes and Character Development. (2023, August 29). WritingBros. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/call-of-the-wild-literary-analysis-of-themes-and-character-development/
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“Call of the Wild”: Literary Analysis of Themes and Character Development [Internet]. WritingBros. 2023 Aug 29 [cited 2023 Oct 4]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/call-of-the-wild-literary-analysis-of-themes-and-character-development/
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