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Alfred de Vigny

John Thornton is one of the surprising complexities in the novel.  The story describes Buck’s transformation from pet to wild animal, and part of this transformation is due to the decline in the quality of human beings who take roles as Buck’s master.  As these humans become less competent, Buck must rely upon himself.  This self-sufficiency is part of what drives his transformation.  However, John Thornton is not incompetent.  Instead, his competency, rather than highlighting the contrast between humans and nature, demonstrates that some humans are closer to the wild.  Thornton is a gold prospector who saves Buck’s life when Hal is attempting to beat him to death.  Buck becomes intensely loyal to them, and the two of them share a mutually beneficial relationship.  Thornton’s treatment of Buck is not unusual; he is a good man who treats all of his dogs well, so that there is a mutual respect in all of the relationships.  In fact, one sees the element of partnership in the relationships.  Thornton is more like the man in Buck’s dreams, with their companionship having a mutual benefit.  The mutuality of this relationship is demonstrated by Buck’s continuing loyalty to Thornton after he dies.

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