rating: 4 of 5 stars
Just reread this recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. While not necessarily enjoying the ongoing theme of Survival of the Fittest, the comparison of nature between animal and man is not entirely deniable. I enjoyed pondering the question of whether we as humans have certain natural instincts passed down through genetics that call out to each of us. One thought that continued to fester in my brain, which I believe still remains unanswered is if listening to those instincts makes us more human and closer to divinity or if it brings us to our neanderthal roots and we become as natural men focused solely on the pleasures and pains of life.
I also enjoyed watching Buck go throughout the book with an evolving sense of loyalty. In the beginning it seems a novel concept or principle but unchallenged Buck did not seem to truly grasp the concept. Later, in the team mentality, self preservation reigned supreme while loyalty to the team was a close second. When Spitz attacks Buck during an attack on the group from the Huskies, it was his betrayal of the team that ultimately allowed Buck, who had put team loyalty first, to rise to the respected position of leader.
The lessons of companionship also resonate throughout the book. Buck experiences varied types of companions and creates working relations with all but not until John Thornton does he experience friendship and love. Interesting enough though, even in this relationship Buck seemed to lack something and wanted more.
Lastly, what rings true and ultimately triumphs? Does humanity possess measures of virtue or does the concept of survival of the fittest dominate humanity as well as the animal kingdom. While I do not share London's gloomy outlook, I believe this is his rebuke of humanity. Those London portrays as the "civilized" of humanity act the most selfishly and cruelly. When Buck meets Thornton, he does begin to perform unselfish acts but not because he has attained a measure of humanity...he has found love.
London proposes that humans are no more likely to be genuinely kind or genuinely careful of others than animals are, they are simply more likely to try to disguise their own selfish desires and actions. I have a slightly more optimistic outlook on humanity and believe we have the dual instincts buried within us of divinity and humanity. The seedlings of Divinity lift us to overcome the natural man and place the things of the Spirit in priority while the flesh of humanity pulls us down to require the pleasures and pains of life experience.
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