Stolen from his family, a dog named Buck must quickly learn the harsh law of survival among the men and dogs of the goldcrazed North. The plot concerns a previously domesticated dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events leads to his serving as a sled dog in the... read more
Buck, a Saint Bernard shepherd dog, lives a comfortable life in the Santa Clara Valley with his owner, Judge Miller. One day, Manuel, the Judge's gardener's assistant, steals Buck and sells him in order to pay a gambling debt. Buck is shipped to Alaska and sold to a pair of French Canadians... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Buck, a Saint Bernard shepherd dog, lives a comfortable life in the Santa Clara Valley with his owner, Judge Miller. One day, Manuel, the Judge's gardener's assistant, steals Buck and sells him in order to pay a gambling debt. Buck is shipped to Alaska and sold to a pair of French Canadians named Francois and Perrault, who were impressed with his physique. They train him as a sled dog, and he quickly learns how to survive the cold winter nights and the pack society by observing his teammates. He and the vicious, quarrelsome lead dog, Spitz, develop a rivalry. Buck eventually defeats Spitz in a major fight, and after Spitz is defeated, the other dogs close in on him, and thus kill Spitz. Buck then becomes the leader of the pack.
Eventually, Buck is sold to a man named Charles, his wife, Mercedes, and her brother, Hal, who know nothing about sledding nor surviving in the Alaskan wilderness. They struggle to control the sled and ignore warnings not to travel during the spring melt. They first overfeed the dogs, then when their food supply starts running out, they do not feed them at all. As they journey on, they run into John Thornton, an experienced outdoorsman who notices that all of the sled dogs are in terrible shape from the ill treatment of their handlers. Thornton warns the trio against crossing the river, but they refuse to listen and order Buck to mush or move on. Exhausted, starving, and sensing the danger ahead, Buck refuses and continues to lay in the snow not moving except for breathing and blinking. After being beaten by Hal, Thornton recognizes him as a remarkable dog and is disgusted by the driver's beating of the dog. Thornton cuts him free from his traces and tells the trio he's keeping him, much to Hal's displeasure. After some argument, the trio leaves and tries to cross the river, but as Thornton warned, the ice gives way and the three fall into the river along with the neglected dogs and sled.
As Thornton nurses Buck back to health, Buck comes to love him and grows devoted to him. Buck saves Thornton when the man falls into a river. Thornton then takes him on trips to pan for gold. During one such trip, a man makes a wager with Thornton over Buck's strength and devotion. Buck wins the bet by breaking a half-ton sled out of the frozen ground, then pulling it 100 yards by himself, winning over a thousand dollars in gold dust. Thornton and his friends return to their camp and continue their search for gold, while Buck begins exploring the wilderness around them and begins socializing with a wolf from a local pack. One night, he returns from a short hunt to find his beloved master and the others in the camp have been killed by a group of Yeehat Indians. Buck eventually kills the Indians to avenge Thornton. After realizing his old life is a thing of the past, Buck follows the wolf into the forest and answers the call of the wild.
“He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilization and flung into the heart of things primordial.”
“And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive inside of him.”
“The completeness with which he harked back through the ages of fire and roof to the raw beginnings of life in the howling ages.”
“There is an ecstacy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstacy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.”
“He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back to the womb of Time.”
“Mercy was a thing served for gentler climes.”
“He would return the gaze, without speech, his heart shining out of his eyes as Buck's heart shone out.”
“The time-card was drawn upon the limitless future.”
“He was older than the days he had seen and the breaths he had drawn. He linked the past with the present, and the eternity behind him throbbed through him in a mighty rhythm to which he swayed as the tides and seasons swayed.”
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