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E203-2 March, 2009 M Johnstone

Reading Notes – Chapter Two


Call of the Wild by Jack London
Chapter Two: The Law of Club and Fang
During his first few days in the Yukon, Buck had to learn many lessons to survive
under the frigid north‟s unwritten “law of club and fang.” He learned from watching
Curley‟s violent death that the husky dogs of the north fought like wolves and that to
be knocked off your feet in a fight was a death sentence.
He learned how to pull a sled after François harnessed him between Dave and Spitz
(the lead dog) who were seasoned sled dogs. François, Dave, and Spitz were stern
teachers who taught Buck by punishing his mistakes with fangs and whip.
When Perrault added three
more dogs to the team,
Buck learned by watching
how they got along with
the other dogs. Billie and
Joe were brothers. Billie
was good-natured and was
quickly bullied by Spitz.
Joe met Spitz‟s aggression
with snarls and growls so
terrible that Spitz left him
alone. The third dog, Sol-
leks (the angry one) was a
grizzled veteran who only wanted to be left alone to do his job. Buck learned the
hard way not to approach Sol-leks on his blind side.
From Billie, Buck learned how to build a warm nest in the snow to survive the frigid
nights.
In the next few days, the team traveled forty miles per day. Harnessed between Dave
and Sol-leks, Buck learned even more about being a sled dog when they rewarded
his every mistake with snarls and bites.
Buck‟s final lesson moved him another step from his previous “civilized” life. He
learned to guard his food fiercely and to eat it quickly before other dogs could steal
it. The “law of club and fang” also taught him to become an accomplished thief who
would steal food from human or dog with no remorse.
As much as he learned from watching, Buck‟s survival was aided by an awakening
of “instincts long dead. Quickly he became more and more like his wild ancestors.
Notes - Chapter Two, Call of the Wild

Focus

As you read this chapter, think about the „law of the club and fang‟. In your opinion, does this
apply beyond the world of animals?

Questions

1. What lessons does Buck learn in this chapter? How is the „law of the fang‟ different from
the „law of the club‟?
2. What is the one thing that Dave and Sol-leks live for? Why do you think they are like this?
How do you think they got this way? Can you think of examples of other animals or
humans that show these traits? What does this tell you about animal and human nature?
3. If you were Buck, which of the other sled dogs would you chose to be your teacher and
why? How is this dog like or unlike François as a teacher?
4. Describe the conditions under which Buck is now living and working. Would you work in
and travel through conditions like these, if you thought you could find gold?
5. Explain the meaning of the following quotation:
And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again.
The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the
youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval
forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. . . . Thus, as token of what a puppet
thing life is, the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again.

6. In adapting to his new world, has Buck developed or retrogressed? Defend your answer.

Vocabulary

primordial (3) : ancient, prehistoric traces (41): the side-straps of the


vicarious (9): experienced by harness. These attach the dogs to the
watching, or listening to, others doing sled.
something rather than by doing it
yourself.
husky dog (11): a powerful breed of
dog used for pulling sleds.
swart (27): swarthy; having a dark
complexion.
draught animal (36): (pronounced
„draft‟) an animal used for pulling
heavy loads.
wheeler (39): the dog harnessed net to
the sled, behind another dog or dogs.
reproof (40) : blame, criticism tuition (42): instruction; teaching
ere (43): before
dat (46): that* (French Canadian
pronunciation).

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Notes - Chapter Two, Call of the Wild

despatches (48): official, written snowdrifts (136): deep piles of snow


messages formed by the wind, dunes of snow
appeasingly (54): act in such a way as routed (142): forced out
to stop someone being angry webbed shoes
diabolically (57): in an evil way (145): shoes with
discomfiture (59): a feeling of wide soles of
confusion or embarrassment interlaced
material
prowess (62): outstanding ability
allowing people
disconsolate (78): unhappy and to travel easily
depressed, gloomy over deep snow
in a trice (93): very quickly gee-pole (146): part of the dog sled
courier (109): a person employed to broke camp (150): took down and
take letters and documents from one packed the tents
place to another (DHL is a courier
fastidiousness (157): great attention
service)
to detail; fussiness
retarded (119): held back; hindered
clamor (179): protest; demand.
cheaper (128): easier
retrogression (182): moving back to
trouncing (130): a severe defeat or an earlier historical age or time
punishment
leeward (193): on, or towards the side
timberline (135): the place in the sheltered from the wind
north beyond which no trees grow
cadences (203): the rise and fall in the
glaciers (136): rivers of solid ice that tone of a person‟s voice when
move slowly down mountain valleys speaking
divers (208): several

Adapted from From:


Cope, Jim & Cope, W, A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Edition of the Call of the Wild (Pengin).
Carter, Ronald (ed), The Call of the Wild, Penguin Student Edition (Penguin, 1999).

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