Notes on Characters from Call of the Wild

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Call of the Wild Major Characters

Buck: A dog who bears his enormous size from his father, a St. Bernard, and intelligence his mother, German Shepherd. Brown-haired with white patches on his nose and chest, Buck grows up in northern California on Judge Miller's homestead, where he leads a carefree existence free from any harm. However, when Manuel sells Buck away he encounters many obstacles to be overcome in a ruthless struggle to survive in the Alaskan wilderness as a sled dog, first for Perrault and Francois, later for the Scotch half-breed, and then for three Americans who mistreat him. Saved by John Thornton, an enamored Buck joins this man on an expedition deep into the Yukon Territory to discover gold. There, Buck undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis, hunting prey in the wilds and eventually joining a wolf pack after Thornton's murder by the Yeehats. He finally listens to the voice of the wild within him, calling out for him to return to the primal ways of his wolfish ancestors.

Perrault: A French Canadian man who joins Francois on the Narwhal after Buck is purchased in Seattle. Perrault is a special courier for the Canadian government, responsible for delivering important messages throughout Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Buck grows to respect Perrault because of the fairness with which he treats the sled dogs, punishing those who are bad and rewarding those who do well. Perrault and his partner Francois bid a final farewell to Buck one day in Skaguay, Alaska, after receiving new orders from the government.

Francois: A French Canadian man who purchases Buck with Perrault in Seattle before traveling aboard the ship Narwhal, bound for Dyea, Alaska. Francois is mainly responsible for driving the sled team and caring for the dogs, and he forms a close bond with Buck over time. When Spitz disappears, Francois knows immediately that Buck is responsible for his death. Buck grows to respect Francois because of his fairness, although Francois hugs Buck one final time before he departs elsewhere, having received new orders from the Canadian government. Buck doesn't see him again.

Spitz: A bullying dog so named because he was brought by a whaling captain from 'Spitzbergen,' located on the island of Svalbard north of Russia and Norway. An experienced sled dog, Spitz is the leader of the team, although he is arrogant and treacherous. When Curly dies, Spitz offers no assistance, causing Buck to hate him. Tensions between Buck and Spitz escalate as Buck covets Spitz's leadership position. Eventually, a final fight between the two dogs leaves Spitz with a broken leg, and he is then ripped to pieces by the other dogs whom he had belittled and bullied for so long.

Hal: A nineteen year old brother of Mercedes from America, Hal is unused to the harsh weather in the Northland. Having dreams of striking it rich during the Klondike Gold Rush, this young man is cruel and brash, often mistreating the sled dogs terribly. After nearly beating Buck to death until he is saved by an enraged John Thornton, Hal then defiantly drives the remaining sled dogs ahead onto a melting trail, where he then drown beneath the ice along with Mercedes and Charles.

Charles: A middle-aged man and husband of Mercedes, also from America. Charles is a lazy man, accustomed to the luxuries of urban life, who knows nothing about life out on the trail, although he holds high hopes of getting rich in the Klondike Gold Rush. Bossed around by his wife Mercedes and her arrogant brother-in-law, Charles later becomes more argumentative when they begin to run out of food. He offers no assistance to Buck as Hal is beating him before his very eyes, nor does he assist Hal when he is being attacked by Thornton because he feels too tired. Charles tries to turn back after Hal and Mercedes drown, but the ice collapses around him and he falls beneath the frigid waters himself.

Mercedes: Sensual and selfish, Mercedes is the only female human to appear in the story. Accustomed to the luxuries of life in urban America, she is forced to abandon her huge wardrobe of outfits to lighten the dogsled. Mercedes appears at first to show compassion, urging Buck to obey Hal and Charles so that they won't beat him, but later she worries only about herself and insists on riding in the sled because she is tired of walking. This added weight to pull contributes to Buck's extreme fatigue, even though he is doing the best he can, and it is partly responsible for causing the ice to break that kills her, Charles, Hal, and the surviving sled dogs. Mercedes' selfishness brings death to everybody.

John Thornton: A compassionate, wise, sensible man who always craves another adventure. Bearing the greatest resemblance to the author in character and in name (Jack London's given name was John London), John Thornton rescues Buck from Hal's cruel whip, nursing the poor dog back to health. Buck grows to love this man because of this kindness, helping Thornton in turn when he is drowning in a river, when he is attacked by another man, and also when John makes a bet that Buck can pull a sled weighing half a ton all by himself. Thornton then takes Buck on a new adventure for gold in the Yukon Territory, although he is killed by the Yeehat warriors while Buck is away hunting moose in the forest. Upon returning to the camp, Buck slays these dancing Yeehats in rage, mourning for his dead friend. His love for Thornton had always been stronger than the call of the wild; however, with Thornton dead, Buck reenters the forest and joins a wolf pack, living life from then on as a wild beast.

Minor Characters

Judge Miller: A wealthy, retired judge who owns a spacious estate in California's Santa Clara Valley. Buck's St. Bernard father had been Judge Miller's devoted companion, and Buck succeeds him in fulfilling this role. The Judge's gardener steals Buck away, and he never sees the Judge again.

Manuel: Judge Miller's gardener. Afflicted by gambling debts, Manuel unjustly sells Buck away to a stranger at the railroad station.

Man in the red sweater: An experienced dog handler in Seattle. The man in the red sweater breaks Buck out of the crate where he has been enclosed for two days without food or water. Buck is enraged, but the man teaches him humility by hitting him with a club; each time Buck attacks, the man in the red sweater outsmarts him, eventually hitting him in the genitals as a final blow. Beaten, Buck calms down and eagerly eats food from the man's hand. The man in the red sweater sells Buck to Francois and Perrault.

Dave: An antisocial dog who runs directly behind Buck on the sled team, nipping his legs when Buck makes mistakes. He lives for the sled, and at all other times Dave does not want to associate with any of the other dogs, dying while still struggling to pull the sled although his body has become sick. The Scotch half-breed shoots Dave with his gun, relieving the poor dog from his suffering.

Curly: A cheerful Newfoundland dog purchased by Francois and Perrault, whom Buck first meets aboard the Narwhal. Curly's life is short lived, however, as she is torn to pieces by the other sled dogs when she nudges one of them to play. Buck forever resents Spitz because he laughs during this massacre, offering no assistance.

Billee: Brother dog of Joe. Billee is good-natured and friendly just as Curly had been, although he is a bit more streetwise as well about how to approach the other sled dogs. Billee collapses after Hal's mistreatment, and the man breaks his skull in frustration with an ax while laying in the snow.

Joe: Brother of Billee. Unlike his good-natured brother, Joe is very gruff and tough, defending himself against the bullying Spitz on occasion. Joe survives until the very end, when he drowns beneath the ice with Hal, Charles, and Mercedes collapses beneath them.

Sol-leks: An old, seasoned sled dog who only had one eye. Like Dave, Sol-leks (whose name means 'Angry One') lives only to pull the sled, but at all other times he is quiet and antisocial. Sol-leks pulls directly in front of Buck, setting an examples for him. Sol-leks survives until the very end, when he drowns along with Hal, Charles, and Mercedes when the trail collapses beneath them.

Pike: A sneaky sled dog, secretly stealing food from the sled drivers among other things. Buck quickly learns from him how not to get caught. No longer having the energy to be sneaky, Pike eventually drowns along with Hal, Charles, and Mercedes when the trail collapses beneath them.

Dub: Dub tries to copy Pike in committing sneaky antics, but he is clumsy about it and often gets caught by Perrault and Francois. Because of this, Dub is the general scapegoat whenever anything goes wrong. Too tired to continue along the trail and nursing a wounded shoulder, Hal shoots Dub in the head with a gun in order to end his suffering.

Teek: A faithful husky sled dog, acquired with Koona by Francois and Perrault. Buck quickly trains Teek how to pull the sled. Because he joins the team so late and has more energy than the other dogs, Teek survives until the very end when the trail collapses beneath the sled, and he drowns along with Hal, Charles, and Mercedes.

Koona: Added to the team along with Teek, Koona is also a faithful husky, quickly trained by Buck. Starving to death and tired, Koona collapses along the trail because of Hal's cruel mistreatment. Koona is probably axed in the head to end his suffering, just as Billee had been the day before.

Scotch half-breed: A sled driver who takes charge of the team after Francois and Perrault's departure. The Scotch half-breed treats the dogs fairly as they pull mail back and forth to Dawson City, although the heavier loads prove to be an increasing pain for the dogs. When the dogs are completely worn out after arriving in Skaguay, Alaska, the Scotch half-breed leaves the dogs when they are sold to Hal, Charles, and Mercedes, because he is getting fresh, new dogs that can do the job better than Buck's team.

Skeet: A friendly Irish setter belonging to John Thornton. As Billee had been, Skeet is very good-natured and licks Buck's wounds, nursing him back to health in a motherly sort of way. Skeet dies at the side of a pool containing John Thornton's body, 'faithful to the last,' murdered by the Yeehat warriors.

Nig: A large black dog, half bloodhound and half deerhound belonging to John Thornton. Like Skeet, Nig is extremely friendly towards Buck as they journey throughout the Yukon Territory. Buck finds Nig's dead body near the camp, with a Yeehat arrow ruthlessly pierced through his back.

Hans: Thornton's traveling partner, along with Pete. These two bring the raft to carry Thornton and Buck to Dawson City when the trail begins to melt away, and later, Hans helps to pull John to safety after he pulls into a raging river. Hans later dies after being shot countless times by Yeehat arrows that stick out of his back 'like a porcupine.'

Pete: Thornton's other traveling partner, along with Hans. Pete, with Hans, brings the raft that carries Buck and Thornton to Dawson City; Pete helps to pull Thornton to safety after he nearly drowns in a river. Pete is cruelly slain in his sleeping bag by the Yeehat warriors, where Buck finds his dead body after returning to the camp.

Matthewson: A wealthy man who places a bet with John Thornton. Convinced that Thornton's dog Buck cannot pull a sled weighing one thousand pounds, Matthewson wagers sixteen hundred dollars that Buck will fail. He is proven wrong, however, when Buck accomplishes this enormous feat, and Thornton wins all of his money, using it to embark on an expedition deep into the Yukon to find gold.

Yeehats: A fictitious Native American tribe. The Yeehats attack Thornton's camp, murdering all of its inhabitants, although Buck unleashes his fury against them when he returns. The Yeehats flee the camp, terrified and thinking that Buck is a creature with supernatural powers called the 'Evil Spirit.' As times passes, the Yeehats never return to the valley where Thornton's camp has been, believing that it is the Evil Spirit's home. The Yeehats also call Buck the 'Ghost Dog,' leading a pack of wolves and spawning an age of fear and terror against wandering hunters and Yeehat warriors.

Dolly: A strong husky purchased in Dyea, Alaska by Francois and Perrault. Dolly is badly hurt after an attack of wild dogs, and she later goes rabid herself, furiously attacking the other sled dogs including Buck, until her skull is forever smashed by Francois, as he struggles to stop her madness.

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