Monday, March 11, 2013
The Big Read at the Lakeshore Humane Society
The Lakeshore Humane society turned out to be the perfect setting for a book discussion based around a text with an inhuman protagonist. As the primary character of The Call of the Wild, Buck serves as the feature point of interest, and he was the perfect launching point for our discussion. The group was enthusiastic, interested, and well prepared for an engaging conversation about the novel. Everyone seemed to be “on the same page”, so to speak, about the powerful effect the novel had on us as animal-lovers. Twenty eight people gathered in a small meeting area to discuss the issues of animal advocacy and the nature of beasts, as well as to support the World Wildlife Fund Organization’s Gray Wolf Adoption Sponsorship.
Initially, we raised the question of the effectiveness of Buck’s role as the protagonist. Several people responded that since Buck was a dog, he was more relatable and more empathetic (rather than if he were a human character). This caused one person to raise the question of what Buck’s being a dog had to do with the success of the plot, and whether or not we would feel the same way if Buck was a human and the story was about human slavery. Collectively, the group seemed to agree that undertones of slavery were inherent in the text already and that no matter what, human connectivity is a part of us and therefore a part of what we read.
Was Buck bored by if before he was hurled into the world of terror in the Northland, were the Law of Club and Fang reigned? When Buck was kidnapped to pull the sled, he transformed into something faster, stronger, and even more magnificent. However, was this change a matter of regression or transcendence? Did Buck revert back to a simpler way of life, or was the call of the wild about rising above the trials of his present circumstance? In the end, we all agreed, survival means to protect yourself above all others. What, then, does it mean that Buck, even in his elevated state of wild consciousness in the final chapter, still holds a glimmer of love for the human John Thornton?
Inevitably, the conversation turned to people’s own pets and whether or not they thought their dogs had a primordial beast within them or not. An amusing discussion, but it touched upon the importance of human and animal relationships. This refers to the fact that even some sled dogs in the novel were better equipped for living in the wild, but it was Buck who proved to be the most capable in the end. It was Buck who started off as someone’s pet and had never had a taste of the wild.
During our Big Read event, we had the pleasure of being in the presence of educators- from the primary level to collegiate. This turned part of our discussion into a comparison of the usefulness of this canonized novel. At the elementary level, one teacher noted that the text was found most interesting by young men, which is very meaningful. Research has shown that younger men are less likely to read for enjoyment, but this novel has the capabilities of bringing back the “fun” in “reading for fun.”
Something that really piqued everyone’s interest was the brief discussion we had about Jack London’s relationship with his own dog. London was an interesting guy who spent a significant amount of time cultivating a philosophy about life and writing and how to navigate the hardship in life without losing heart. He gives a great deal of worthy advice to young writers, and to young people in general struggling to hold onto their humanity in a cold, wild world.