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NEA Big Read at Valencia College: 2022: The Call of the Wild by Jack London

A guide to events for the NEA Big Read program at Valencia College and Orange County Library System

About The Call of the Wild

About The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild is a short adventure novel by Jack London, published in 1903 and set in Yukon, Canada, during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The central character of the novel is a dog named Buck. The story opens at a ranch in Santa Clara Valley, California, when Buck is stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. He becomes progressively more primitive and wild in the harsh environment, where he is forced to fight to survive and dominate other dogs. By the end, he sheds the veneer of civilization, and relies on primordial instinct and learned experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.

London spent almost a year in the Yukon, and his observations form much of the material for the book. The story was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in the summer of 1903 and was published later that year in book form. The book's great popularity and success made a reputation for London. As early as 1923, the story was adapted to film, and it has since seen several more cinematic adaptations.


About Author Jack London

Jack London (1876-1916)

Author Jack London was born in San Francisco. At the age of 14 he quit school to seek adventure. As a sailor, he pirated San Francisco Bay oyster beds; then, aboard a sealing ship, he cruised to Japan. Later, as a tramp, he saw much of the United States and the interior of a Niagara Falls jail. He completed his high school education in a year and went to the University of California for a semester. He traveled to the Klondike with the gold prospectors and, returning to California, launched his writing career.

London won national acclaim for his short stories about the brutal and vigorous life of the Yukon, published in magazines and then in a book, The Son of the Wolf (1900). Other writings in the same genre followed; the best known is The Call of the Wild (1903), which describes how a dog leaves civilization to join a wolf pack. The Sea-Wolf (1904), in addition to portraying the predatory sea captain Wolf Larson, tells of the conversion of a civilized man to an elemental way of living. The stress upon the primitive survival of the fittest in both books stemmed from the author's belief in many of Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. White Fang (1906), The Strength of the Strong (1911), Smoke Bellew (1912), and The Abysmal Brute (1913), as well as several volumes of tales set in the South Seas, developed similar themes.


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