NEA Big Read Event at Patterson Library by Ayla Dziduch, Thomas Beiter, and Pilar Padrón
We presented at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. We had a modest event of six people. The intimacy of our event led to a wonderful and enriching discussion, that really helped to accomplish what the NEA has set out to do.
Why did we do the Big Read? What is the Big Read about?
The National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) started the Big Read Program in 2006 as a way to try to bring back the enjoyment of leisurely reading into the American Culture and to revitalize the role of reading and literature. Since its national launch in 2007 there has been over one thousand Big Read events nationwide.
Who was Jack London?
Born as John Griffith in January of 1876 in San Francisco, California, Jack London grew up within the working class in the Oakland Slums. He spent his time doing odd jobs such as sealing ships, shoveling coal, pirating oysters, and working in a cannery, and spending all of his free time in a library with his nose buried in any novel or travel book he could get his hands on. His writing career didn't begin until his mother heard about a writing contest through their local paper where he won first place out writing writers from Stanford and Berkeley. From then on, London made a point to write down at least one thousand words each day and soon began publishing in the Overland Monthly to get his name and work known in the public eye.
At the age of twenty seven, London published his first novel The Call of the Wild in 1903 with great success. London published a total of fifty novels within his short life time, was married twice, and had two daughters. London soon died from a life long battle against Kidney Disease on November 22, 1916.
The importance of the Klondike Gold Rush:
The Klondike Gold Rush was the setting of the novel. Gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon in August of 1896. The Yukon region is located in Northwest Canada. The gold rush lasted from 1896 until the year 1899. Prospectors came from all over the West Coast of the United States, coming from as far as San Francisco. At most 30,000-40,000 prospectors actually made it into Canada, for they were told to turn around when they reached as far as Seattle if they did not have the necessary provisions (which was about 1,500 lbs. of food and supplies). The remoteness of the region of where the gold actually existed was small, hard to find, and even harder to reach. The peak of the gold rush brought in roughly 1.139 million American dollars in 1899, which is comparable to $1 Billion today. Most prospectors didn’t even reach gold, as only around 4,000 actually struck gold.
What is the important need to know information about the novel?
The novel was written in 1903. The main character Buck is a large St. Bernard/Scottish Shepherd Mix. This equips him greatly for the wild. After four years as a domestic dog, Buck is stolen from his comfortable home life and sold in to the life of being a sled dog, participating in the Gold Rush. Upon being reintroduced to a more wild life, Buck quickly rediscovers his primordial side and takes charge of the pack becoming the leader. Buck was sold a few times until finding love and comfort in his final owner John Thornton. John is his last attachment to his human side. Upon John’s death, Buck abandons his human side and takes his place permanently with a wild pack of wolves.
What influenced Jack London's writing of this novel?
On July 25, 1897, Jack London started participating in the Gold Rush. He spent several weeks in the Yukon wilderness observing sled dogs and what it was like to be a part of the Gold Rush. During these weeks London was inspired to write The Call of the Wild. He learned about breed and behavior from his interaction with sled dogs. This interaction inspired the character Buck greatly, as well as the other dogs. These personal experiences inspired The Call of the Wild.
Join Our Discussion! It is YOUR turn!
- What are the several meanings of the call of the wild?
- The call that Buck feels VS the call that the humans feel?
- Are they different or just disguised in different beings?
- Are humans still driven by this instinctual animalistic side today? In what ways?
- If not, what makes humans different than animals or in this case dogs?
Which is more important in this novel, animal nature or human nature?
- Courbin-Tavernier, Jacqueline.”The Call of the Wild and the Jungle: Jack
Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism Howells
to London. Ed. Donald Pizer.Cambridge University Press. 236-262.