Monday, May 09, 2005

The Call Of The Wild, by Jack London

This sort of novel is not exactly my cup of tea. Of the three Jack London novels I’ve read, Martin Eden is definitely the favourite. I wonder if I’ll find another of his books I’ll enjoy as much.

The Call Of The Wild is obviously the most famous of the London novels. It tells the story pretty much from a dog’s point of view. How many other novels have been written from the dog’s point of view I wonder? Quite a few.

What’s undeniable about Call Of The Wild is its raw poetry. As anthropologist Jane Harrison wrote, to be human doesn’t necessarily mean to be humane. This novel has that attitude in spades. Here’s a key quote:

‘He must master or be mastered; while to show mercy was a weakness. Mercy did not exist in the primordial life. It was misunderstood for fear, and such misunderstandings made for death. Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten, was the law; and this mandate, down out of the depths of Time, he obeyed.’

And to think Jack London was an active socialist! Sure, its about a dog’s life. But it’s also clearly obvious that London is imagining himself, almost glorying in, the life of a husky. Can you imagine Bob Brown writing a novel with similar lines in it? The above quote is just the philosophy of the novel; there are many very violent descriptions of Buck, the main 'character', in action. His highest achievement is when he actually kills a man.

Like so many great works, this novel was written in 30 days, a sure sign that the novel wrote itself.

Pagan poetry this is, completely purged of any Christian sentiment. I read it in an illustrated classics edition for children.

No comments: