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Naturalism was introduced into the literature world to assist with the reflection of the new and harsher realism aspects about life. It was a phenomenon introduced to put much emphasis on the already established scientific analysis of life which takes into account the descriptions made about the both sides of life. It assumes that both the good and the ugly always operate concurrently with each other without any form of interference. The novelists interested with this particular form of literature wanted to achieve the objective of depicting characters who lead a low- social and economic classes, whose miseries were basically determined by both environment and heredity factors which were considered uncontrollable in determining there lives as well. This assignment will thereby involve itself with the application of the aspect of naturalism in the broader American literature and for that reason commence to expound on comprehension reflected by naturalism literature works in general.
The scheme of writing novels with naturalism ideology was introduced to the literary world by the French novelist Emile Zola. The idea replicated to the whole world in general and in America, this form of writing was introduced by the novelist Frank Norris. The idea behind naturalism stipulates that emphasis is put upon logical or rather scientific look at the life of human beings so that it is perceived at all directions, in both good and bad times.It is noted that this novelist (Norris) wrote naturalism-based stories after Darwinian’s theory took the world’scenter stage(Darwin 13-46). Jack London, the author of “The Call of the Wild” was personally influenced by Darwin’s ideas of man’s never-ending struggles with nature and his bid to making ends meet. The evolution theory of Darwin advocates for the “survival for the fittest” criteria upon which human beings are expected to endure all pains and mysteries in the world (Conder 218-243).
In order to understand the definite features associated with naturalism, it will be wise to provide a quick recap of the different characteristics which are attributed to this phenomenon at large.Firstly; determinism is considered as one of the characteristics of naturalism. Determinism is expounded as the infringement of man’s ability to free will so that hisfocus on life is determined through the different forces of nature.It is, therefore, evident in naturalism novels that authors use the methodology of predetermining the end outcome of a character in the literary analysis and in turn allude to natural phenomenon as the major determinant factor for the misfortune. Secondly, objectivism is a consideration facet of naturalism in the sense that the author presents the experiences of the major character of his works while an observing distance. This phenomenon is considered to be similar to thescientific way of researching in the sense that they take notes as theyobserve them unfold. The major way by which authors apply the notion of objectivism is by developing characters in the stories without names.In this way, theydisengage themselves from the happenings of the plot but rather put emphasis on the misfortunes as well as the fortune areas of the scenarios of the character. Thirdly, pessimism is another consideration which depicts characteristic of naturalism in the sense that the characters are made to put more emphasis on at least one or more statements about life. In this sense, exposure about life is uncovered to include poverty, racism, hatred, prostitution and diseases like AIDS. The fourth and the final characteristic attributed to naturalism is the unexpected shift of events especially at the end of the story being delivered. This characteristic is emphasized for the basic reason that it portrays the indifferences existing within the human nature at large. In “The Call of the Wild”, these characteristics are evident in the entire story (Graham 2-9).
Before commencing the major literary analysis, it will be wise to expound the author’s life background for the purpose of portraying the reasons for which he based his writing upon.Jack London was born in 1876 at San Francisco in a poor family background. It is said that he had to supporthis family through his engagement of the odd jobs. When he realized that his greatness was to be achieved only through education, he enrolled in high school at the age of nineteen. While at school he depicted the thirst he had for knowledge by reading all the books he came in contact with and this explains the great ability he possessed about life.These books were greatly attributed to philosophy and London paid much tribute to teachers like,Darwin,Spencer and Weber. He particularly believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution for which he put more emphasis on the survival for the fittest notion. It should be noted that these experiences he had about life as well as the exposure he had on different philosophical books contributed to the development ofboth character and the ability he possessed about life in general. Apart from his popular novel, “The Call of the Wild”, the other works which touch upon his philosophical ideals are “The Sea-wolf” and “White Fang” (Graham 1-16)
“The Call of the Wild”, a philosophical novel by Jack London, is developed through non-human character, Buck, which is a domesticated and somehow well-treated type of dog. Buck lived at Santa Clara Valley and during his puppyhood he is perceived to have leaded a noble kind of life. Judge Miller was the first owner of this dog. He always took time off to take good care of Buck but somewhere along the line his life changed instantly when Manuel, the Judge’s gardener, cheated and later sold him off to a very strange man who was a completely opposite of the judge in character. This misfortune changed Buck’s life and when he tried to resist the happenings, he got beat by the new master and as life holds it, Buck submitted to the new master who later took him to Yukon where he (Buck) served as a sleigh type of dog. It is while at Yukon that even the worst of life happened to him. He hated Yukon because of the bad weather which he found to be very troublesome. He wasalso troubled by a certain team of dreadful husky dogs which he constantly fought to protect himself. He also lost his friend during these fights. These worst occurrences made him realize that the world was full of hatred and ferocious rivalry.
He further learnt that there was a rule for which he was to live with in this world which advocated for “kill or be killed; eat or be eaten off” and that the idea of fairness was completely inexistent in the harsh world. He also came to understand that whether he liked it or not, fights and frequent wars were the only determinant factors he could use to mastering the surroundings within him. He later learnt to master this harsh surrounding leaving everybody around him amazed with the exceptional skills he had possessed, that is, a great sense of judgment and the immense intelligence in that matter(London 34).
These exceptional kills made his master sell him to two other interested parties until he got John Thornton, a very friendly master who treated him as his own child. Buck is said to have loved this master dearly and when he got killed by the Yeehats (an Indian tribe), Buck turns vengeful and kills most of them.Even though he understood that his ties to human beings were broken, he was proud of the fact that he had indeed killed most of these human beings. He later learns that he has to answer to “The Call of the Wild” whereby he is expected to run into the wild and create new relationships with his cousins, the wolves. He later does so and he is perceived running with these wolves side by side shouting hard as he runs. He is sometimes perceived to beraising his head to the skies and with his new friend, the wolves, he shouted with a voice which advocated for the great future for him, the sound of the wild.
According to Webster’s version of the dictionary, naturalism is defined as any kind of thought whether philosophical, moral or in other cases religious which glorifies the aspect of nature so that in turn supernatural and spiritual elements are completely excluded. Naturalism is said to have originated from the emphasis put on both social as well as hereditary components of the environment at large. These social and heredity aspects of life were considered to be the most influential determinants of individual’s character as well as the influence the actions had on the deeds of their respective subjects.
In presenting the ideal of naturalism as portrayed in “The Call of the Wild”, it will be wise to differentiate the happenings into the different characteristics which compose it.
Firstly, naturalism will be differentiated into the deterministic theory of heredity which is greatly attributed to the hearing and responding to “The Call of the Wild” by Buck. At the very first pages of the novel, London introduces the story with a poem by Myers which helps in bringing about the theme behind the story. The poem is considered as a major determinant for factoring in “Atavism” which in itself refers to the reminiscing animals havein relation to the instincts they possess about their wild ancestors. Atavism is considered as a recovery for which most animals heed to whenever needarises. Buck’s recovery process involved the frequent visions he had about his primitive past. These reflections of the past often appeared to him while he was asleep alongside a camp fire. In these visions, Buck is perceived trailing in the wild with a very hairy man during the premed vial times. This hairy man is further described as fond of leaping high and swinging in trees of the wild.
“And closely akin to the visions of the hairy man was the call still sounding in the depths of the forest. It filled him with a great unrest and strange desires. It caused him to feel a vague, sweet gladness, and he was aware of wild yearnings and stirrings for he knew not what. Sometimes he pursued the call into the forest, looking for it as though it were a tangible thing, barking softly or defiantly, as the mood might dictate.”(London 110).
Experiences faced byBuck while in the northland wilderness stimulated the instincts of a wild carnivore which is believed to have been dormant within him. These instincts are depicted clearly when he befriends the wolf brother and when kills the moose. This indicates that he had found out the real reason for living his life. He learnt that nature only allowed those fittest to survive to live in it and the process of earning it required him to respond to “The Call of the Wild” while the atavism within constantly obliged him to change into a wolf like creature that opted to live in a hostile kind of environment where it (as a wolf) will kill and fight voluntarily in a bid to survive the hard times of nature. Before the killing of his beloved master, Buck is said to have been in constant obsession to a point that his entire attraction shifted to “The Call of the Wild”. However, he was unable to leave his loving friend, John Thornton (London 112).
John Thornton portrayed as a nice master took Buck in and treated him like his own child. It should be noted that Buck was in a better position to run away if at all the master was less worth in character and cruel in his behaviors. This is explained in chapter VI dubbed “for the love of man”, “Yes, Buck acted at times like a house dog as he sat next to Thornton’s fire but behind him were the shades of the of all the manner of dogs, half wolves and wild wolves, urgent and prompting.”However, visions of having to run freely in the wild came to pass when his beloved friend, John, got attacked and later killed by the Yeehats. It should be noted that it was for this particular reason that Buck decided to transform to fit into his ancestral form. He went ahead and killed most of the Yeehats and later disappeared into the forest (wild) where he met his ancestors (wolves) and together they killed and ate for survival purposes. It should also be noted that the fact that he (Buck) killed the Yeehats meant that he had transformed completely from a pet dog that he once was to a wild and harsher type of dog. He answered to the call of the wild and more so obliged to its demands without any form ofremorsefulness (London 123-165).
The second characteristic to be analyzed rests upon the deterministic theory associated withnature and which advocates for “survival for the fittest” notion. In this particular notion, naturalism is portrayedas being in possession of an unimaginable form of force which it uses in developing the human character and in turn presents influence to the actions of the underlying subjects as a whole. Human character is established and developed in such a manner that it completely directed its attention to the survival of the fittest kind of phenomenon. This notion stipulates that the strong survive the hard times because they possess the capability of looking down upon the weak by pushingthem into environments of triviality where they perish. This is indeed depicted by the transformation Buck underwent, that is, from a civilized and gentle type of dog to a completely ruthless and harsh dog which even killed human beings who for once paid him homage(London 145).
When Buck was under Judge Miller’s care, he had all the freedom he needed. He went hunting with Miller’s sons and even went for morning walks with Mollie and Alice. On the other hand, in the unfriendly environment, Buck acclimatized himself to the new surrounding so that he got himself transformed to a dog which learnt the importance of surviving the hardest times. After he was sold and put under care of a harsher master, Buck was forced to learn the trick of remaining alive. For instance, he opted to fight Spitz, the bully dog, rather than keep on to starving. With courage and determination, he managed to kill the bully and immediately assignedall the leadership roles by the other dogs. In another instance, Buck killed a moose and later when he was attacked by a team of wolves he managed to break the neck of one of them and became the leader of the wolf pack. Despite the fact that Buck acquired great strength and courage for fighting any kind of challenges, he learnt that it was his outstanding abilities which drove him to be a profound survivor in the harsh world. It should be noted that the ever soft Newfoundland, Curly failed to survive in the harsh world because she lacked the ability to acclimatize to the new harsh environment (London 156).
Thirdly, the presence of objectivism as deterministic character of naturalism helps to portraythe disengagement of the author to the happenings of the events in the story. Naturalists like to remain aloof and describe either side of life without biasness and discrimination so that the dark side of life is exposed to everybody who seeks enlightenment. In this story, Buck is depicted as a naturalist by whom both sides of life are exposed. His actions are a clear reflection of the many cruel fights human beings must endure in order to survive the harsh environment. Authors involved in the literary works of naturalism are aspired to write about the most essential obsessions in life so that issues such as fear, hatred and love form the order of the day. For instance, in the wilderness the most crucial aspect is to exist and so the naturalists advocate for a decadent perspective about life as they never take to praising or curse human actions citing that human beings engage in whatever they perform in order to survive and remain on top as the fittest of all. In order to survive the hard times, Buck learnt that there was never to be a room for sympathyin whatsoever circumstances. In the naturalists sortof the world , rules are never perceived to exist and in fact when they exist then they are predestined to be broken at all times for survival purposes.