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General Summary of “Call of the Wild"

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/17/2012

This article includes a plot summary of “Call of the Wild." The main events in the story span from California to the North, and follow Buck as he changes from a domesticated animal to the head of a wolf pack.

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    From Lap Dog to Lead Dog

    Buck lives with Judge Miller in California, a lapdog with all of the comforts that the judge can provide him with. When gold is discovered in Canada, Buck’s life changes forever. Judge Miller’s gardener sells Buck to dog traders, who beat Buck and treat him cruelly. Francois and Perrault, two mail carriers in Canada, buy Buck from the traders. Buck learns how to work with the rest of the pack, and he is appalled by the violence that he sees among the dogs. Spitz, the lead dog of the pack, is especially violent, and slowly Spitz and Buck become rivals. Eventually, Buck kills Spitz and becomes the lead dog of the pack, helping them to make the trip in record time.

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    From Bad to Worse

    Francois and Perrault sell Buck to another mail carrier who works the dogs harder. Then, however, the worst happens. Buck is sold yet again – this time to three gold hunters who know little about surviving in the North. Hal, Charles, and Mercedes make a number of mistakes. They work the team too hard, pack too little food, overload the sled, and fight amongst themselves. The dogs on the team begin to starve, and one by one, they die off.

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    John Thornton

    The team meets John Thornton on the way to their destination, and he warns them not to move forward, as the ice ahead is very thin. Hal ignores his advance and orders the team to proceed. Buck, however, feels that something is wrong ahead, and he refuses. Hal beats Buck, and Thornton saves him. The rest of the team moves ahead and is swallowed when the ice breaks beneath them.

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    The Call of the Wild

    Buck becomes extremely loyal to Thornton, and he wins a bet for Thornton through pure strength and devotion. Slowly, however, Buck feels a pull towards the wild areas beyond the camp. When Thornton is killed by Yeehat Indians, Buck escapes into the wild and becomes the leader of a pack of wild wolves.

    This plot summary of “Call of the Wild" is just a summary of the main events of the novel. For details about the characters in the novel, see the other article in this series.

The Call of the Wild: Book Study Guide

"The Call of the Wild" is a classic book that is often read in the classroom. This "Call of the Wild" book study guide will walk you through the novel with a plot summary and an analysis of various characters.
  1. General Summary of “Call of the Wild"
  2. “Call of the Wild" Study Guide: Character List