Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “The Call of the Wild" that can be used as essay starters. All four incorporate at least one of the themes found in “The Call of the Wild" and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Call of the Wild" in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Topic # 1: London as a Student of Kipling and Stevenson
Authors are usually influenced by others in what they write. For example, it has been said that Jack London was an admirer of the works of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson. Research the literary concepts of the genre and time period. Choose a work by either author and do a comparison with The Call of the Wild. Are there similar themes and story lines? How does London develop the styles of his predecessors? Does he create his own style or simply emulate that of Kipling and Stevenson and their contemporaries?
Topic #2: The Significance of the Title
It is not until the end of the book that the reader understands what the call of the wild is. In the beginning, Buck believes himself to be free to do as he pleases. He considers himself a great hunter. It is not until the howl of a wolf calls to his spirit that Buck begins to understand that he did not really know true freedom. Explore the importance of the title throughout the book. How much is Buck’s life changed when he truly experiences the call of the wild?
Topic #3: Saving Master and Dog
The relationship between Thornton and Buck begins when Thornton rescues Buck from Hans. As time passes, Buck and Thornton continue to save each other. Evaluate the number of times that each life is saved. Are there times when it is more than just the physical life that is rescued? Include in your evaluation the importance of the last time, the time that Buck is not around to protect Thornton. Does the fact that Buck abandoned Thornton to the call of the wild change how one views their relationship?
Topic #4 The Many Lives of Buck
The tale begins with Buck living on the Judge’s property. He is a king in his own castle. He is lord of the grounds. That is, until he is sold to cover the gardener’s gambling debts. From there he changes masters several times, never finding true happiness again until Thornton rescues him from a cruel beating. When Thornton dies, Buck has no other master. He becomes his own master as he thought he was on the Judge’s land. The difference is that his new land is untamed wilderness. Examine the many different lives that make up the one life of Buck. How is his character affected with each change?
The Call of the Wild Quotes
This list of important quotations from “The Call of the Wild" will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements on our paper topics by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Call of the Wild" listed here correspond, at least in some way, to possible paper topics, which by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned.
“Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.”(Ch. 1)
The search for treasure is a timeless tale. Men have always gone on quests to find wealth untold. As a dog, of course Buck does not read the papers. His concerns are few while he is under the care of the Judge. He does not anticipate how a historical find will change his life not once, but many times. He unwittingly becomes part of a great historical adventure. The viewpoint of how the dogs are affected puts an interesting twist on this story.
“The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin Growers’ Association, and the boys were busy organizing an athletic club, on the memorable night of Manuel’s treachery. No one saw him and Buck go off through the orchard on what Buck imagined was merely a stroll." (Ch. 1)
Buck has befriended Manuel, unaware of Manuel’s gambling habits. When Manuel realizes that selling Buck will bring him money, he cannot resist. He takes his employer’s property and sells it for his own personal gain. More than that, he sets Buck on a roller coaster adventure through multiple owners. By chance, the adventure ends with Buck returning to the wild as the leader he was meant to be.
“‘One devil, dat Spitz,’ remarked Perrault. ‘Some dam day heem keel dat Buck.’ ‘Dat Buck two devils,’ was Francois’s rejoinder. ‘All de tam I watch dat Buck I know for sure. Lissen: some dam fine day heem get mad lak hell an’ den heem chew dat Spitz all up an’ spit heem out on de snow. Sure. I know.’" (Ch. 3)
Francois and Perrault have a disagreement several times over which dog, Spitz or Buck, would be triumphant in a fight against each other. From the beginning, Spitz recognizes Buck as a threat to his alpha status. Buck sees that Spitz will take him out as soon as he can. Perrault believes that Spitz will win, while Francois pegs Buck as the victor. In this kind of fighting, the loser is taken out by the pack once a definite outcome is apparent.
“Buck felt vaguely that there was no depending upon these two men and the woman. They did not know how to do anything, and as the days went by it became apparent that they could not learn. They were slack in all things, without order or discipline. It took them half the night to pitch a slovenly camp, and half the morning to break that camp and get the sled loaded in a fashion so slovenly that for the rest of the day they were occupied in stopping and rearranging the load." (Ch. 5)
Charles, Hal, and Mercedes are all caught up in the excitement of adventure. They are unprepared to face the challenges of survival in the harsh conditions of the north. It would be possible to forgive their inexperience. However, as the narrator observes, they do not learn from their mistakes. Instead, they make the same ones over and over again. Their unwillingness to change behaviors that are not working makes them more dangerous.
“This man had saved his life, which was something; but, further, he was the ideal master. Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency; he saw to the welfare of his as if they were his own children, because he could not help it. And he saw further. He never forgot a kindly greeting or a cheering word, and to sit down for a long talk with them (“gas" he called it) was as much his delight as theirs." (Ch. 6)
Thornton views his dogs as pets and not just sled dogs. He uses kindness and love to get the best performance out of his team. Without a wife or children to take away from the attention, he is able to give much of himself to his dogs. In addition, he does it with a true sense of enjoyment, not obligation. He is not merely a man tending to his animals—he is a father tending to his children.
“Thornton knelt down by Buck’s side. He took his head in his two hands and rested cheek on cheek. He did not playfully shake him, as was his wont, or murmur soft love curses; but he whispered in his hear. ‘As you love me, Buck. As you love me,’ was what he whispered. Buck whined with suppressed eagerness." (Ch. 6)
Thornton has bet that Buck can pull a load of flour, which no one else believes is possible. The money riding on this bet is enough to help Thornton settle some debts. He runs the risk of sacrificing Buck and losing the bet. Though he has his doubts, he does believe that Buck has a better chance than any other dog of winning this challenge. Buck’s love for Thornton drives him to succeed.
“One night he sprang from sleep with a start, eager-eyed, nostrils quivering and scenting, his mane bristling in recurrent waves. From the forest came the call (or one note of it, for the call was many-noted), distinct and definite as never before—a long-drawn howl, like, yet unlike, any noise made by husky dog. And he knew it, in the old familiar way, as a sound heard before." (Ch. 7)
Out in the forest with Thornton and his team, Buck hears the wolves howling. It is a sound that speaks to him, though he is not entirely sure what it is. It wakes the side of him that was dormant. It is the side that humans suppress in their domesticated pets. Being a wild animal is a negative thing to civilization. But in the untamed North, Buck is far from civilization. The wolves call to him and he answers willingly, enthusiastically.
“The blood-longing became stronger than ever before. He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survive. Because of all this he became possessed of a great pride in himself, which communicated itself like a contagion to his physical being." (Ch. 7)
The more time that Buck spends living in the wild as a free animal, the more addicted he becomes. His inner nature, his natural instincts remind him that this is what he was always meant to be. He was supposed to be a wild creature. He was supposed to hunt, to match his strength against that of other living beings and win. He gains a better sense of himself as a hunter and a wolf.
“Death, as a cessation of movement, as a passing out and away from the lives of the living, he knew, and he knew John Thornton was dead. It left a great void in him, somewhat akin to hunger, but a void which ached and ached, which food could not fill." (Ch. 7)
The relationship of Thornton to his dogs is a loving one. The dogs have a job to do, but Thornton’s treatment of them makes them more willing to perform for him. They are allowed to become pets instead of remaining tools that provide a means to an end. In the midst of the greed that fuels the search for gold, Thornton’s character is presented as a good and fairly selfless being.
“In the summers there is one visitor, however, to that valley, of which the Yeehats do not know. It is a great, gloriously coated wolf, like, and yet unlike all other wolves. He crosses alone from the smiling timber land and comes down into an open space among the trees. Here a yellow stream flows from rotted moose-hide sacks and sinks into the ground, with long grasses growing through it and vegetable mould overrunning it and hiding its yellow from the sun; and here he muses for a time, howling once, long and mournfully, ere he departs." (Ch. 7)
Buck’s devotion to Thornton is such that he continues to visit the site of John’s death long after his body is gone. His vengeance was such that the Yeehats declared the valley a place of evil and no longer went into it. His intelligence is great that he remembers the last man he loved, his last master. To have come through so many trials, it is good to see that Buck is able to rise yet again from the destruction of the world that he knew with Thornton. He never has another master. Rather, he becomes the leader of the wolves.