Call of the Wild Chapter 2 - The Law of Club and Fang
The boat lands at Dyea, Alaska, and already this next day brings another lesson to Buck, who is still dazed at how much his life has changed in such a short period of time. He begins to realize the enormity of what has happened, "Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment's safety. All was confusion and action, and every moment life and limb were in peril. There was imperative need to be constantly alert; for these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. They were savages, all of them, who knew no law but the law of club and fang" Chapter 2, pg. 18. Rather than respecting each other, these dogs know only to defend themselves against each other by violence, or to feel the beat of a human's club or whip when they do not behave properly. These dogs are tamed by feeling violence, and if they were too weak to survive these incidents, then they were killed. The sled dogs are resting outside in the snow after waking up, and a violent incident occurs.
Buck watches one day as Curly playfully approached one of the other sled dogs, a large husky, and in reaction the dog lashes out violently with its teeth, ripping open Curly's skull. The other dogs fly in for the kill, surrounding the poor dog in a whirlwind of teeth and claws, craving blood and death. Buck stares on in horror as it takes far too long for Perrault and Francois to get into the middle of the mix and beat these dogs away, revealing Curly's torn and bloody carcass gleaming against the white snow. Spitz merely watches this incident occur from afar and appears to be laughing for some reason, letting his tongue hang out in a mocking manner, causing Buck to feel the utmost hatred towards him from that point on. Buck is disgusted that Curly was just trying to be friendly and she was attacked for this, whereas Spitz seems to find the whole situation to be funny. Spitz is a much more experienced sled dog than Buck, so perhaps he is more accustomed to seeing these types of situations from occurring, but it is all new for Buck.
Soon after this, Buck is placed into a harness right in front of another dog named Dave. The long line of dogs continues, and Spitz is at the front of the line, leading them along the path. Francois rides at the end in the sled, directing the dogs through the Alaskan snow, and Perrault walks ahead of the sled using his snowshoes, packing down the snow and testing the path to make sure that it's safe. When Buck is too slow or made a wrong move, the more experienced Dave gently bites him to urge him along on the proper course. These dogs form a team, and if any one on the team did not cooperate, then the entire team would suffer as a result, because their harnesses are all joined together. As the days pass, Francois comments to Perrault how quickly Buck learns how to be a sled dog, and this man readily agrees.. Soon after, Perrault buys two more dogs named Billee and Joe to replace the fallen Curly. Perrault works as a messenger for the Canadian government, and having two more dogs on the team will insure that he can complete his route more quickly as well. Billee is good-natured as Curly had been, which Spitz takes advantage of by attacking him, but Joe often comes to the rescue and scares Spitz away.
From Dyea, Alaska the dog team must make its way along the Chilkoot Trail that will lead them to Dawson City, Canada, located in the Yukon Territory at the crossing of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. It is here that the Klondike Gold Rush first began. Another husky dog named Sol-leks is added to their team as well, appearing to be very experienced with scars and only one eye to see out of. His name means "the Angry One." Buck observes that Sol-leks is very antisocial like Dave and just wants to get his job done, although he also learns by a bad experience that Sol-leks does not like to be approached on his blind side. When poor Buck neared him on the side of his body where the eye is missing, Sol-leks lashes out without warning, tearing a deep gash into his shoulder. That is the last time Buck makes such a mistake, nor does he fall prey to the same gang murder that faced Curly not too long before. Buck is determined to survive. He is next confused at how he can sleep comfortably in the icy weather where they are traveling. First he tries to enter Francois and Perrault's tent but is thrown out, then he wanders around for awhile before being confronted again by the mean sled dogs that killed Curly. He automatically snarls at them, however, refusing to show any weakness so that they will not harm him. They back down, and Buck continues to search for a place to sleep.
Finally, he turns back to where his other companions were: Dave, Sol-leks, Joe, Billee, Spitz, and the rest of his team. Upon arriving, none of these dogs are to be seen, and Buck searches frantically for them before falling down into a hollow part of the snow where Billee is lying down, and Buck falls right on top of him. Realizing that the sled dogs dig a hole under the snow to stay warm and sleep there, Buck happily follows this example and has a good night's sleep; his body heat contained within the little snow cave, and he does not freeze during the night. The next day he awakens, rising out through an extra layer of snow that had fallen during the night before, and Francois again marvels at what an intelligent dog he is. Perrault readily agrees, happy to have a dog like Buck on his sled team. The next day's run ran places Buck in front of Dave again and behind Sol-leks, with the hope that these two experienced sled dogs would mentor Buck so that he, too, could become skilled just like them. Spitz is still the leader of the pack, at the front of the dog sled team, guiding the way through the snow.
There are now a total of nine dogs on the sled team, including Buck, and with the team established, the journey continues across many landmarks along the Chilkoot Trail. Buck sleeps beneath the snow again the next day. Perrault continues to walk ahead of the dog sled team, testing the snow to be sure that it is safe to walk on, packing it down with his snowshoes, while Francois drives the sled, instructing the dogs with his whip when to "mush" or move, or when to stop upon the command "ho." The days pass in this monotonous manner, and Buck adjusts gradually to his new life, forgetting the playful dog he once was while at Judge Miller's house. One problem for Buck is that he is always hungry, even though he receives more food than the other dogs, "He never had enough, and suffered from perpetual hunger pangs. Yet the other dogs, because they weighed less and were born to the life, received only a pound only of the fish and managed to keep in good condition" Chapter 2, pg. 28. Buck often loses his food because he doesn't eat fast enough, and the other dogs steal it away from him.
Over time, Buck learns again to eat more quickly. By observing another dog named Pike as he steals a huge hunk of meat when Perrault wasn't paying attention, Buck decides to try the same move. Perrault is outraged upon discovering the meat was missing, although he did not suspect Buck at all and instead punishes Dub for the deed, since he is the dog team's scapegoat whenever something goes wrong. Pleased that he has outsmarted his master, Buck gains confidence and starts to feel as if he is a part of this sled dog culture. He must learn and progress, or else he shall suffer the same fate that befell Curly because of her good natured demeanor. Buck takes on a cold demeanor towards the other dogs, much like Dave and Sol-leks, showing little emotion for fear of letting down his guard, and it is this attitude that keep him from being overcome by the other dogs. He just minds his own business, and that way he can't get on the other dogs' bad side. When they growl at him, he growls back to stand his ground and to warn them that he won't be so easily dominated.
Furthermore, Buck's changes "marked...the decay or going to pieces of his moral nature, a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. It was all well enough in the Southland, under the law of love and fellowship, to respect private property and personal feelings; but in the Northland, under the law of club and fang, whoso took such things into account was a fool, and insofar as he observed them he would fail to prosper" Chapter 2, pg. 29. When Buck was in the South near Santa Clara Valley at Judge Miller's house, life was ruled by reason and morality; Miller was himself a justice of the peace, using reason to punish wrongdoers by the power of mercy. Now that he is far up North life is very different; life is more primal, untamed, and closer to his canine roots. In some ways, life is more inhuman as well, since love and fellowship, such high qualities of human civilization, have no meaning here. Life is a matter of pure survival. There is no time for fellowship or love, since anyone who thinks about such things will quickly die for being so naive. Buck becomes more canine, nearly wolf-like increasingly and less human.
Buck survives through this harshness, however, controlled increasingly by his inner instincts that gave him the will to survive. He refuses to be beaten by the sled dogs or humans alike. As time goes on, his body grows muscular and thick, no longer flabby or soft. His hair grows course, and his appetite grows very flexible, eating whatever is within reach. The dainty steaks of his days at the Judge's house have little meaning here. Buck learns also to bite the ice out of his toes using his tongue so that they do not become frozen, and he becomes an expert at digging hollows under the snow to sleep in. Buck recalls slowly the primal urge of hunting that he had never experienced for himself, chasing down prey in a wild pack of other dogs, until the prey is killed. The first step towards this was stealing the meat from Perrault, and this hunger for meat continues to grow stronger and stronger within Buck's canine blood.
These feelings surge into his body gradually, and "In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened the old life within him, the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks...And when, on the still cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him" Chapter 2, pg. 31. Buck experiences a remarkable transformation during this time, as he moves away from the human, domesticated roots from which he emerged and becomes a wolf again internally, relearning old impulses that had long since been dead and undeveloped within him. Rather than degenerating in human terms, Buck becomes himself more and more, and through this struggle to survive, Buck reaches a greater understanding of himself. In many ways, this difficult journey with the sled dogs across the Arctic wilderness is an inner journey for Buck to rediscover his primal self.