The Call of the Wild, novel by Jack London, published serially by The Saturday Evening Post in 1903 and then as a single-volume book by Macmillan & Co. the same year. It is often considered to be his masterpiece and is the most widely read of all his publications.
The story follows Buck—a mix of St. Bernard and Scotch collie—throughout his journey as a sled dog. Buck’s story begins at the house of Judge Miller in Santa Clara, California. Here, Buck is a beloved domesticated pet, living comfortably. However, after gold is discovered in the Yukon territory of Canada, Buck is stolen by one of Miller’s gardeners as the demand for sled dogs increases. The gardener sells Buck to dog traders and makes a profit, and Buck is soon shipped north, abused and beaten as he goes. Along with a sweet, unassuming dog named Curly, Buck is sold to two government couriers, François and Perrault, who put him to work as a sled dog. Buck is soon overwhelmed by his surroundings, particularly when he sees a group of huskies attack and kill Curly.
As Buck is forced to adapt to the wild, his primitive instincts begin to surface. It is during this time that he makes an enemy of the lead sled dog, Spitz. The two fight a number of times, and Buck consistently undermines him in the hopes of diminishing his authority. After a final, decisive battle, Buck kills Spitz and appoints himself as the new lead dog—something he convinces his owners to go along with through his sheer stubbornness. With Buck as lead dog, the team begins making trips in record time. The team, along with Buck, is eventually sold to a mail carrier who forces the dogs to carry arduously heavy loads. This work results in the death of one of the dogs.
The team is sold again, this time to American gold hunters named Hal, Charles, and Mercedes. The three are wildly inexperienced: they overload the sled, and they beat the dogs unnecessarily. Halfway through a long journey, they begin to run out of food, causing more than half of the dogs to die of starvation. Along their journey, and still with a long way to go, they happen upon the camp of a man named John Thornton.
Thornton warns them that the ice they are about to cross is thinning and that it is not safe to cross. The Americans disregard him and attempt to leave. The other dogs obey, but Buck refuses to move onto the ice. Hal beats him viciously until Thornton steps in and cuts Buck free. The Americans continue without Buck, only to fall through the thinning ice and perish alongside the remainder of their dogs.
Buck becomes devoted to Thornton, and he even saves Thornton from drowning. One day, Thornton brags that Buck can pull a thousand-pound load and bets more than a thousand dollars on him. After some struggle, Buck is able to do so, and his master uses the money to search for a hidden mine deep in the Canadian wilderness. Buck’s love for Thornton becomes challenged by his growing desire for the wild. He begins to disappear into the forest for longer intervals of time, but he always returns to Thornton. During these excursions, Buck hunts bears and moose and even befriends a wolf. One day Buck returns to find Thornton and his crew killed by Native Americans the novel calls Yeehats. Angry beyond comprehension, Buck attacks and kills several Yeehats and scatters the rest. Buck then ventures into the forest and becomes the leader of a wolf pack. He becomes known by the Yeehats as Ghost Dog; because of his swiftness, his shadow is all they can glimpse. Despite being fully wild now, Buck still returns to the place of Thornton’s death each year to mourn the loss of his best friend.