Being consistent in all of his writings, Jack London seems to have a well defined worldview. Many, if not all, of his pieces focuses heavily on nature. This means that nature is a prominent feature in his worldview. To look at this more closely, I have specifically chosen one of Jack London’s most famous works The Call of the Wild to analyze closely using common worldview questions.
What is prime reality?
In other words, this question is asking what is really and truly real, and how we know it to be real. Since The Call of the Wild focuses so heavily on nature, it seems that Jack London believes that which can be seen to be the true reality. However, he does give evidence in his novel of some outside force. There is a certain power, one may call it, that beckons Buck to come to the wild. Buck recognizes this force and is conflicted. Perhaps London is alluding to a force that binds the universe together.
What is the nature of the world around us — the external reality?
In The Call of the Wild, the world is wild, and in that particular region, untouched. Although it is dangerous, it is pure. London seems to allude to the point that the world has always been there. It is ruled by ancient, unwritten code. Even the dogs obey it, for instance when they eat or fight. This unwritten law brings order to the world.
What does it mean to be human?
In this novel, humans are depicted as cruel and harsh. They try to control the world around and take it for their own. Almost all of Buck’s masters abused him. Some were just cruel and beat him for no reason, while others were stupid and did not understand the wild, causing him and the other dogs much pain and suffering. Only one master was kind to Buck. He lived in solitude and lived off the land, not trying to conquer it. So London believed that the closer man was to the wild, the better off he was. Humans were meant to go back to what they came from and become wild. This is called naturalism, and is also evident in Buck.
What happens to a person at death?
Whenever a death occurred, that person or animal was simply gone. There is no mention of a life after death or any such sort of continuation. They simply disappear. The first death that Buck witnessed was Curly the dog. She simply disappeared in the frenzy of mad dogs, just like a couple of Buck’s masters disappeared under the ice into a frozen river. But life moved on without a skip of a beat. When buck conquered his foe Spitz, the rest of the dogs treated Buck as their new master like nothing had even happened.
How and why is it possible to know anything at all?
Knowledge, in The Call of the Wild, seems to come from instinct and from experiences. Buck learns the ways of the wild quickly because it seems to be written in his DNA. But he also learns the rules by observing. His first lesson came when Curly was killed. Her end came when she was knocked off her feet, so lesson number one: do not get knocked off your feet. So wisdom can only be found through observation, experience, and instinct.
Is there right and wrong and how do we know right from wrong?
The wild does not have much of a moral code. It goes by the law of the survival of the fittest and “every man for himself.” Only the strongest creatures and those who are able to adapt can survive. So “doing the right” thing did not have much place in the wild. At times throughout the novel, it seemed that the outside force of nature would inflict punishment on those who did wrong, like when Buck’s cruel and ignorant masters fell through the partly frozen river. Yet other times nature contradicted itself by allowing John Thornton, Buck’s kind and adored master, to be killed. So really, the universe does not follow any moral code: only survival.
What is the meaning of human history, if any at all?
Not much is said of human history in this novel. The most notable factor of it applies to all creatures: the survival of the fittest. This rule has been evident in all of history, according to Jack London, and is still seen throughout Buck’s adventures. Buck observes this through his experiences and learns that the only way to survive is by adapting.
What personal, life orientating core commitments are consistent with this worldview?
In The Call of the Wild, each person or creature clearly has one goal: survival. Each wants to make it to the top of the food chain. They must become the strongest and most adaptable to be on top. Even better, becoming close to the wild primitive state that all of nature was once in was the way to thrive the most. In the book, those most “civilized” were depicted as the weakest.
In conclusion, The Call of the Wild seems to align closest with Evolution. The idea of the survival of the fittest affirms this. This worldview varies widely with a Christian worldview. While Christianity believes in a strict moral code given by God, the worldview in Jack London’s novel follows no such code of any kind and no higher power. It could be argued that these two worldviews are strictly opposites.