I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist.
About the Author
John Griffith (Jack) London
January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916
Jack Griffith Chaney was born to a single mother, later taking his stepfather’s last name. His mother was a spiritualist and his biological father was a roving astrologer and lawyer. He struck out on his own at age 14, becoming a fisherman and hobo, even being jailed for vagrancy for a month. He won a writing competition at age 17, beating out competitors from Berkeley and Stanford. This inspired him to write more short stories. When he was 19, he crammed four years of high school study into one year so he could pass the entrance exams for Berkeley. He attended for one year before his financial situation forced him to drop out. He journeyed to the Klondike seek his fortune in the Gold Rush.
In 1897 at age 21 London sailed with his sister’s husband Captain Shepard to join the Klondike Gold Rush. It was the inspiration for his most successful stories, but his time there was harrowing. Without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, London developed scurvy, a common malady in the Yukon. His gums became swollen, and he lost his four front teeth. His face bore marks that reminded him of his illness in the Yukon for the rest of his life. He returned a year later, determined to make his living as a writer.
Jack London’s most famous works include The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories "To Build a Fire", "An Odyssey of the North", and "Love of Life". London died at age 60 in 1916 from dysentery, kidney problems, and late-stage alcoholism.
The Call of the Wild (1903)
The Call of the Wild is an adventure novel set in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. Jack London’s time in the Yukon inspired The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and some of his short stories. It is the story of a dog named Buck who finds himself in the Yukon Territory. The Call of the Wild was originally published in four installments in the Saturday Evening Post before being printed in book form. It has never been out of print since. If you want to know more about the setting for the book, click here for an article on the Klondike Gold Rush.
Here is a Teacher’s Guide to Call of the Wild from Penguin Books.
Questions for The Call of the Wild:
As the story progresses Buck’s behavior changes to adapt to his new environment. Do you believe he is retrogressing or growing and developing? What examples of this did you find in the story?
What did Buck learn from Spitz’s leadership? How does Buck lead differently? In what ways is he like Spitz?
Charles, Hal, and Mercedes fail to adapt to the Yukon. What traits do Buck display that they lack?
What characters are wild, and which are civilized in the story?
Do you think Buck would ever be able to go back to being a domesticated dog after the end of the story? Why or why not?
This week we are reading the book The Bravest Dog Ever-The True Story of Balto. This is a story about a sled dog in Nome, Alaska who is called on to heroically deliver medicine to sick people one winter in 1925. Click here to see and listen to the book being read to you.
Balto and Gunnar Kaasen
Storybooks for Elementary, Intensive Support, and Preschool