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Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Chapter Seven

Buck is willing to do whatever Thornton asks of him, and this becomes critical as Thornton and his team strike out in search of a gold mine that is rumored to have a huge amount of gold. Thornton uses the money Buck won in the sled-pulling bet to pay off some of the debts that he owes and to fund his part in the expedition. Together with his partners, Thornton heads into the wilderness.

This chapter focuses on the wilderness. For example, Thornton is completely comfortable with the wilderness, and he is able to hunt to feed the dogs, which places him in stark contrast with Hal, whose incompetence in the wilderness almost led to the death of the dogs. Buck finds himself exploring more of the wildness, traveling far but always returning to Thornton.

The chapter also provides a positive conclusion for Thornton’s search for gold. He does not find the fabled mine that he has been seeking. However, he does find a tremendous amount of gold. Having found the gold, the men commence to mining, which leaves the dogs with a significant amount of idle time. During this time, London reveals more of Buck’s internal life, fleshing out his visions of sitting by the fire with that ancient man. Buck is finally able to name the emotion that he felt during those interludes, and realizes that it was fear that bound the first dogs together with those ancient men.

During this idle time, Buck begins to answer the call of the wild. He explores the wilderness. One day he sees a timber wolf in the woods and tries to approach him. The wolf, fearing Buck’s size, runs from him. One is reminded of Curly seeking to become friends with the husky when she first arrives in Alaska and how that civilized dog lashed out in violence, which this wild wolf does not do. Finally, over time, the wolf allows Buck to approach him, and they sniff noses. This is a commentary on the fact that civilization is not necessarily friendlier, but that the rules of friendship are different in civilization and the wild.

Buck follows the wolf deeper into the wilderness, and they run together. Buck is finally what he has longed to become for most of the novel: a wild dog free to run in the wilderness. However, Buck remembers Thornton, and as much as he wants to go into the wild, he cannot. He turns to run back to Thornton’s camp, which confuses his wolf companion. The two run together until the wolf falls behind, and Buck enters Thornton’s camp alone. This is symbolic of the fact that Buck cannot be both the wild animal and Thornton’s companion; there is inevitable conflict between the two roles. Buck spends the next few days close to Thornton, sticking close to camp, but the wild continues to beckon to him.

The conflict between the pull of his relationship with Thornton and the call of the wild continues to grow throughout the chapter. However, each time Buck goes into the wilderness, he seems to grow fiercer and less domesticated. He becomes an incredibly adept hunter, killing a bear and some wolverines, and finally a wild moose. The hunt for the moose has taken him several days, and after the kill he turns to head back to Thornton’s camp. However, Buck’s sharp instincts let him know that something has gone wrong at the camp, even before he gets there.

When he returns to the camp, Buck finds disaster. All of the men have been killed, shot by arrows. The dogs at the camp are either dead or dying. The only living, unharmed beings at the camp are a group of Yeehat Indians, who are dancing in victory. Buck, realizing that these men are responsible for Thornton’s death, savagely attacks them, killing the chief and several other Indians, and driving the rest into the wilderness. Buck follows Thornton’s scent to his body, finding him lying there with Skeet, his loyal companion. Buck is heartbroken about Thornton’s death, but his interaction with the Yeehats taught him that he is more than a match for an unarmed man.

That night, Buck hears the call of the wild again. He heads into the wilderness, where he encounters a wolf pack. However, they do not immediately accept Buck, instead attacking him. Buck is able to protect himself, but it seems that he may be alone in the world. Then, his friend steps out of the group of wolves. As they did earlier, the two rub noses. Buck is now part of the pack. He becomes the alpha of the pack, fathering many pups. He also continues to pursue vengeance against the Yeehats, who call him the Ghost Dog. He is known to attack and kill their hunters. However, while Buck has gone to live free in the wilderness, no longer dependent upon humans, it would be wrong to suggest he lost all relationship to men; he continues to visit the site of Thornton’s death.

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