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Created by Brian Thornton
||Capo Creations, Box 1411, Haileybury, Ontario, CANADA. POJ 1KO
Not to be used or copied in any manner without specific written consent of the publisher All Rights Reserved
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The Call of the Wild
Student Study Guide
All answers must be in sentence form.
Chapter One-- Into the Primitive
Why does Buck not read the newspaper?
He is a dog.
Locate Puget Sound and San Diego in an atlas.
The internet can also be used to locate places.
What is the yellow metal found in the Arctic darkness?
Gold has been discovered and the Klondike Gold Rush is about to begin.
Give a brief description of where Buck lives.
Descriptions will vary but it is obvious that this is the home of someone quite wealthy.
What do they call the swimming pool?
It is referred to as the swimming tank.
What is an antagonist and why would Manuel be referred to as an antagonist in this chapter?
An antagonist is the villain or bad guy in a story. Manuel has gambling problems and sells Buck to help clear his debts.
What year does the story take place?
The story takes place in 1897. Word of the Gold Rush reached the outside world in mid July 1867 and was reported in the Seattle Post. Although not born until 1874, Robert Service (sometimes referred to as the Poet of the Yukon) spent a number of years in Canada’s north and became famous for poems such as "The Cremation of Sam McGee".
What is meant by the line, "If I don’t get the hydrophoby"?
The man is referring to hydrophobia which is better known today as rabies. Literally translated it means fear of water.
What was the final destination of the train on which Buck was placed in a cage?
He finally ended up in Seattle.
What was Buck’s introduction to primitive law?
It occurred when the man struck him with a club. He quickly realized that he could not fight the man with the club.
What is the Narwhal and where is it headed?
The Narwhal is a ship sailing out of Seattle and it is heading north.
Who are Perrault and Francois?
They are French-Canadians in the employ of the Canadian Government and act as couriers delivering despatches (More of this is revealed in chapter two) . Perrault is purchasing Buck to use him as a sled dog.
When the ship’s propellers finally stop, what strange mushy substance does Buck encounter on the deck of the Narwhal?
It is Buck’s first encounter with snow. He is surprised to find that it disappears (melts) and also burns like fire. People touching snow for the first time are often surprised to find that it has a burning sensation.
Locate Queen Charlotte Sound in an atlas.
It is located off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.
Vocabulary: booming, poplar, veranda, array, artesian well, demesne, kennels, aristocrat, egotistical, progeny, eloquently, lacerated, unkempt, latent, pervaded.
Enrichment: Research the author Jack London. What other novels did he write? Read White Fang.
Chapter Two—The Law of Club and Fang
Describe why Buck’s first day on Dyea beach was like a nightmare?
He was in a state of shock from the climate, the harsh treatment he received, and the fact that he was now expected to work. He also had to be on a constant alert for the dogs and men who were all like savages.
Explain how the husky dogs fought differently from most dogs and more like wolves.
They would strike without warning (without growling) and just as quickly leap away.
Describe the tragedy that befell Curly.
Answers will vary. Curly was killed by vicious attacks of the other dogs.
Why is Buck shocked when Francois fastens straps and buckles on him?
Buck remembers that such harnesses were normally reserved for the work horses back home.
What proof is there that Buck was an intelligent dog?
He made remarkable progress and even knew how to respond to such commands as "ho" and "mush", to swing wide on the bends and to steer clear of the wheeler when going downhill.
Although Billee and Joe were from the same litter, they had very different characters. Describe their characters briefly.
Billee was very good natured while Joe was sour and possessed a perpetual snarl.
The name of the new dog was Sol-leks. What did the name mean?
The name meant the Angry One.
Why was Buck unable to sleep and how did he finally solve the problem?
He was unable to sleep due to the bitter cold. He finally discovered that to keep warm he had to bury himself under a layer of snow.
What would Buck eat for his daily rations?
He would eat a pound and a half of sun-dried salmon.
Why was Buck’s ability to steal food viewed by the author in a positive light?
It was necessary in the hostile Northern environment for Buck to adapt in this manner especially as he was constantly starving. He had to ignore "moral considerations" in order to survive.
Would you be willing to surrender or give up things you believe to be morally right in order to survive?
Answers will vary but students should realize that choices in nature often revolve around basic survival.
Vocabulary: primordial, imperative, combatants, antagonist, assailants, virtue, cunning, intent, tuition, despatches, belligerent, diabolic, gaunt, prowess, retaliate, malingerer, peril, cadence.
Enrichment: Research the Chilkoot Pass in an encyclopedia. Jack London spells it as Chilcoot. See which spelling you can locate it under.
Research the Klondike Gold Rush. You may also be able to find information about other gold rushes.
Chapter Three—The Dominant Primordial Beast
Why did the "primordial beast" continue to grow in Buck?
It continued to grow due to the fierce conditions of trail life.
What finally drove Buck to attack Spitz?
Buck caught Spitz in the warm "nest" that he had created in the snow.
What made the dogs who invaded their camps so terrifying and fierce?
They were starving and looked like skeletons. If they didn’t eat they would probably soon die. In essence they were fighting for their lives.
Describe the condition of the dogs after the fight had ended.
Answers will vary but some of the dogs were quite seriously injured. Joe, for example, had lost an eye and Dolly had a badly torn throat.
Locate Dawson in an atlas.
Can also be located on internet.
What did Perrault mean by having "madness break out among his dogs"?
He was referring to hydrophobia or rabies.
Why would the Thirty Mile River require six days of exhausting toil to cover?
It was wide open and crossing it meant a constant risk of falling through any ice which might exist in the quieter spots along the river.
Describe two ways that Francois attended to the needs of Buck’s tender feet.
Francois rubbed Buck’s feet each evening and even made shoes for Buck from his own moccasins.
Why was Francois forced to kill Dolly?
Francois was forced to kill Dolly with an axe as she had gone mad and had started attacking Buck.
Why did Spitz decide that this was the time to attack Buck?
Spitz realized that Buck was exhausted after trying to escape Dolly and would be vulnerable in his weakened state. Fortunately, Francois drove off Spitz with his whip.
Why were the other dogs no longer afraid of Spitz?
They were no longer afraid of Spitz because Buck was beginning to compete with Spitz for leadership of the team. Buck even protected dogs who stole food from Spitz.
Whom did you predict would win the final fight between Buck and Spitz?
Most readers would predict that Buck would have to win as he is the protagonist in our story and we have only completed one third of the story.
How has your opinion of Buck changed since the beginning of the story?
Answers will vary but most young readers will be somewhat horrified by the increasingly aggressive behaviour displayed by Buck—the dog that had once been a quiet family pet.
Do you think that Buck will ever return to his home in California?
Student opinions will vary. Some will wishfully hope that Buck is returned to his home. Others will realize that the California home or characters are seldom mentioned or developed in any depth suggesting that London does not plan to have Buck return to them.
Vocabulary: dominant, poise, rashness, discarded, timid, famished, plight, shirks, wrath, abjectly, inexorable, flanks.
Enrichment: Research various breeds of dogs. Do some breeds of dogs have particular traits? For example, are some dogs more aggressive than others are or are they more aggressive simply because they have been trained to act that way?
Chapter Four—Who Has Won to Mastership
Why did Francois state that they would now be able to make good time?
He felt that Spitz had initiated most of the problems with his aggressive behaviour. With him out of the way Buck had emerged as the obvious leader.
Why did the two men have such a difficult time when they tried to harness Buck to the sled?
Buck decided that he wanted to be the lead dog and he was also unwilling to come near the men as long as they had a club in their hand.
Why were they able to travel out faster on the Thirty Mile River as opposed to going in?
The river was now covered with ice and Buck was at the lead making the team work more efficiently.
Find Skaguay (more commonly spelt Skagway) in an atlas.
Students will, in a good atlas, see that it is located in Alaska not far from Chilkoot and White Pass.
Who was Buck’s new owner?
He was a half-breed Scotch according to the author’s description. However, the students should realize that Scotch is actually an alcoholic beverage and the man should be referred to as a Scot or Scottish. Furthermore, the term half-breed is now considered a disparaging remark.
How does the author define instincts?
He writes that they are "but the memories of his (Buck’s) ancestors become habits".
What load were they pulling on the sled?
They were carrying mail.
Why do you think the men attended to the dogs every night before thinking of themselves?
The good health of the dogs was essential if the sleds were to make good time. The men realized this and made sure that the dogs ate before they did and that the feet of the dogs were cared for every night.
Describe what happened to Dave.
He became inexplicably sick and was unable to pull the sled properly. Finally, he was shot by the Scot.
Do you think the dogs really understood what had happened behind the belt of river trees?
Student answers will vary. However, people who study animals often point out that we have a habit of conferring human feelings, actions, and reasoning on animals when in fact this isn’t really the case.
Vocabulary: obdurate, deluged, aspired, riddled, boughs, lapsed, matted, resiliency, prey, morose, flounder, remnant, lugubriously, convulsive.
Enrichment: Pretend you are Jack London and that you have just completed writing The Call of the Wild. Write a letter to a publisher describing the book and attempting to persuade them that it is worth their while to publish it.
Chapter Five—The Toil of Trace and Trail
How much weight had Buck lost by the time they arrived in Skaguay?
A little math required here—140 minus 115 leaves a difference of 25 pounds.
Why were the dogs so tired?
They had been given no time to recuperate on the trail. In less than five months they had covered over 2500 miles.
Describe the differing opinions held by Mercedes and Hal concerning their newly acquired dogs.
Mercedes feels sorry for the dogs while Hal thinks they are lazy and wants to whip them.
Why were the dogs unable to pull the sled?
The sled was overloaded with a mountainous load and the runners were frozen into the ground.
Describe what happened once they got the sled moving.
It soon fell over spilling half its load.
What advice were they given by the spectators who had been watching this whole fiasco?
They were advised to half the load and use twice the dogs if they wanted to reach Dawson.
How many new dogs did Charles and Hal purchase for the team?
They purchased an additional six boosting the dog team to fourteen.
How many previous times had Buck covered the distance between Salt Water and Dawson?
He had covered the distance four times previously.
How did Hal try to resolve the fact that he had miscalculated the amount of dog food required for the trip?
Unfortunately, he cut back on the daily food ration and increased the distance covered each day by the dogs.
What actions of Mercedes slowed down the dog team until they could no longer pull the sled?
She insisted on riding on the sled despite repeated warnings from Charles and Hal that the dogs were exhausted.
Whose camp did they stagger into at the mouth of the White River and what was the gentleman doing?
They staggered into John Thornton’s camp and he was whittling an axe handle from a stick of birch.
Why did moisture come into John Thornton’s eyes?
Tears were coming to his eyes when he witnessed the cruel treatment of the dogs.
What did Thornton threaten to do if Hal continued his actions?
He threatened to kill Hal if he struck Buck again.
What tragedy occurred at the end of this chapter?
The sled plunged through the thin ice and all were lost with the exception of Buck who had been cut out of his traces by John Thornton.
Vocabulary: wretched, dwindled, feigned, taut, totter, slipshod, dismay, slovenly, remonstrance, clannish, suppress, superfluous, averred, mongrels, forlorn, orthodox, importuned, perambulating, fissures, monosyllabic, inarticulate.
Enrichment: Do you have an agency in your region that deals with cruelty to animals? Give some examples of what you might consider cruel treatment. Is putting animals in a zoo cruel? Why or why not?
Chapter Six—For the Love of a Man
- Why was Thornton limping slightly at the time he rescued Buck?
He had frozen his feet the previous winter.
- What can you predict about this chapter based on the title?
Answers will vary but students may predict that Buck’s life will take a turn for the better due to Thornton’s kind treatment.
- What were Thornton, Buck, Skeet and Nig waiting for?
They were waiting for the arrival of the raft that would carry them down to Dawson.
- Why was Thornton an ideal master?
He saw to the welfare of his dogs as if they were his own children rather than simply from a sense of duty or business expediency.
- Why could Buck never steal from John Thornton?
He loved and respected Thornton.
- Who were Hans and Pete?
They were Thornton’s partners and they arrived on the raft.
- Describe the incident with Black Burton.
They were at a bar in Circle City when Thornton attempted to protect a tenderfoot who was being attacked by Burton. Burton then turned on John, knocking him to the floor. In an attempt to protect his master, Buck jumped in and tore Burton’s throat open, ending the altercation.
- Describe another incident on the river where Buck saves Thornton’s life.
Thornton falls from the raft and is in danger of being swept through deadly rapids when Buck swims to save him. Thornton grabs onto his tail but is only able to reach temporary safety on a rock. Buck meanwhile swims to shore where Hans and Pete attach a rope to him. He then swims out to Thornton with the rope and finally they are both pulled to the safety of shore.
- What did Thornton claim Buck could do?
He claimed that Buck could pull a thousand-pound load from a standing start.
- How did Matthewson call his bluff?
He wagered a sack of gold dust the size of a bologna sausage by slamming it down on the bar.
- How heavy a load do you think the strongest person in your class could pull on a sled?
Answers will vary but this type of discussion will help them appreciate just how many one thousand pounds actually is.
- How much money did the Skookum Bench king offer for Buck?
He offered to pay Thornton $1200 for the dog.
- Why do you think John Thornton refused the offer?
He loved the dog and did not want to sell him for any price.
Vocabulary: enticed, manifested, communion, shrewdly, passive, grubstaked, chasm, whim, appalled, diminished, hinder, waxed, babel, indiscreet.
Enrichment: Do research into survival in the wilderness. Do you think you have the knowledge to survive in temperatures that would drop to 40 or 50 below. What is the equivalent of 40 below Fahrenheit when measured in Celsius?
Chapter Seven—The Sounding of the Call
Why was Thornton able to pay off his debts?
He had earned $1600 in five minutes when Buck pulled the load and Thornton won his wager.
They took months searching for what place?
They were looking for a fabled gold mine located near a "Lost Cabin".
What did they finally manage to locate?
They came across a place where gold showed like butter in the washing pan.
What is the hairy man that Buck sees during his long hours musing by the fire?
He appears to be describing a primate such as a monkey. The animal is hairy and is able to swing from limb to limb in the trees. It also sleeps (roosts) in the trees at night.
What noise causes him to spring from his sleep with a start?
He hears the long-drawn howl of a timber wolf.
In one of his wanderings in the forest, Buck stumbles across a black bear and kills it. Do you think this could actually happen?
Students should realize that everything in black and white is not necessarily factual. It is unlikely that Buck would be able to kill an adult black bear and cubs would always have the mother bear nearby. As large as Buck was he still weighed much less than a black bear.
Describe the incident with the bull moose.
Descriptions will vary. Packs of wolves have been known to chase a bison for hours. Buck may have been able to kill a moose if it was sick or old.
What horrific scene does Buck stumble upon in the forest?
Initially he finds Nig lying dead on the forest floor and before long he comes across the other dogs and men, including John Thornton, who have all been murdered by the Yeehat Indians.
How does Buck react to the Yeehats?
He kills some of them and the others flee into the forest proclaiming that Buck is an Evil Spirit.
Who does Buck recognize when he encounters the pack of wolves in "his" valley?
He recognizes the wolf that he had met alone in the forest a short time before.
Does the end of the story surprise you? Explain why or why not?
Some students will be surprised as they may have expected Buck to return to California. Others will be surprised as Buck has deserted civilization as we know it. He has truly answered the call of the wild by opting to live in the wilderness and fend for himself.
Vocabulary: ramshackle, gnats, flintlock, obliterated, placer, washing pan, musing, salient, roved, impelled, frenzy, pertinacity, lope, vigil, remnants, carnivorous, sequential, usurp, sluice,
Enrichment: Why is The Call of the Wild a good title for this novel and what is the significance of the title in this story?
Jack London’s writings are often considered to be misanthropic. Do you agree or disagree? Give evidence from The Call of the Wild.
Created by Brian Thornton, Capo Creations, Box 1411, Haileybury, Ontario, CANADA. POJ 1KO
Not to be used or copied in any manner without specific written consent of the publisher All Rights Reserved