Buck’s character undergoes the most drastic change in the novel. With his humble beginnings as a pampered domesticated dog, he is shocked to be sold to dog traders and sold north. His naiveté begins to lessen with each beating, and he realizes that even his fellow dogs can be brutal as well.
He slowly gains confidence in his own abilities as a true leader, and his refusal to accept his original position after killing Spitz illustrates that fact. His physical strength and wildness, unused on Judge Miller’s estate, emerge throughout the plot of the book. Deep within him are yearnings for the wild days of his ancestors, and he even has visions of some of the humans depicting them as primitive cave people.
Spitz is a violent dog, head of the pack under Francois and Perrault. He is vicious with the weaker dogs in the pack, and he seems to look on without pity when the dogs are beaten or hurt. He doesn’t follow any rules, surprising Buck instead of challenging him directly, and nipping at him when their camp is overtaken by wild huskies instead of defending the camp by his side. Buck’s rivalry with Spitz must by necessity end with the death of one of them, and Buck’s cunning saves his life despite Spitz’s familiarity with fighting other dogs.
Hal, Charles, and Mercedes
Hal, Charles, and Mercedes act as the symbols of irresponsible dog owners. They know little about the North or about leading a pack of dogs, and they are boastful enough to ignore the sound advice that they receive from more knowledgeable sled drivers.
Hal and Charles are violent beyond the norm, and although Mercedes starts off with compassion, she slowly ignores the dogs’ plight. They overload the sled, neglect to pack sufficient provisions, and starve the dogs. Mercedes insists on riding the sled, although it makes it even heavier and slows them down, and the three bicker among themselves incessantly.
John Thornton is the epitome of what a dog owner should be. He allows Buck a certain amount of freedom, but commands the necessary amount of respect and loyalty as well. Although the call of the wild is strong, Buck’s loyalty to Thornton is stronger, and lasts until Thornton is killed.
This analysis of characters from “Call of the Wild” gives a “Call of the Wild” character list of only the main characters. For a plot summary that includes more details about the other characters in the book, see the summary article in this series.