Then, at fourteen, I spent a semester at a ski program in Switzerland. I found myself gazing at the Alps wondering what possessed Hannibal to attempt them with his herd of elephant! This country with four official languages, had 450 different varieties of Swiss cheese, with further “variety within the varieties”, which the locals told me was a combination of vegetation and techniques passed from one generation to the next. We studied European history, and Swiss Mountain Guides taught us how to read snow and avalanche conditions. We watched weather to predict whether we would be skiing ice or powder from the way the crystals set up on our jackets. By then, I was a reader but reading comprehension alone could not have guaranteed success in these places. Thanks to my dyslexia, I had the foundation to employ multiple paths of engagement, which helped me draw as much meaning out of these experiences as possible.
Readers can also see how The Call of the Wild reflects London’s socialism. No single philosophical system satisfied London, so he accepted bits and pieces of many different, even contradictory ideas. When the ideas of Darwin or Nietzsche fell short in his estimation, those of Karl Marx seemed attractive. From a Marxist perspective, Buck can be interpreted as a representative of the oppressed, subject to the whims of cruel masters and their corrupt use of power. Under these brutal conditions Buck must do what he has to do to survive. He becomes a brute and a thief himself, struggling individually to fend for himself. Thornton’s benevolent, more equitable treatment encourages socialistic values in Buck. He cooperates with the other dogs, becoming productive and working for the good of the group. Without Thornton’s guidance Buck once again is left with his instinct for survival. Under corrupt power the Darwinian and Nietzschean principles of “survival of the fittest” and “might makes right” apply. Under such conditions, the primitive brute, the evolutionary residue of millions of generations, takes control out of necessity. With a less oppressive system, cooperation can flourish; the civilized half is nurtured and is able to contain the brute. Whether read as a demonstration of Darwinian ideas, an homage to Marxist socialism, or an engaging adventure, The Call of the Wild is considered by many critics to be the best of London’s dog tales. The story of Buck is the most popular of London’s many books.