The Call of the Wild: Metaphor Analysis
Death and Rebirth
Archetypes are literary images that express deep recurring patterns within the collective human psyche. The term was used by psychologist Carl Jung to describe what he called the "collective unconscious," the shared memories of the past common to all humans and expressed in dreams and symbols. The Call of the Wild has a number of archetypal images, including death and rebirth. This image is prefigured in chapter 2, when Buck learns how to dig himself a hole in the snow each night, so he can bury himself in the warmth, get some sleep, and arise fresh in the morning. The archetype is more fully stated later in the novel, when Buck nearly starves to death under Hal's mistreatment of him. As he is beaten by Hal, "the spark of life within flickered and went down. It was nearly out" (chapter 5). But then he is rescued by Thornton and symbolically reborn into a new existence. It is no coincidence that his rebirth happens when spring returns to the earth.
The pattern of death and rebirth is part of the wider myth of the journey of the hero which underlies the narrative.
The final stage of the journey is apotheosis, becoming godlike. Joseph Campbell defines this as the divine state which the hero attains "who has gone beyond the last terrors of ignorance" (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, 1968, p. 151). He is free of all fear. Buck symbolically attains this status when he becomes known as the Ghost Dog to the Indians. He has fulfilled his own nature to the point where he has become invincible, knowing no fear, and completely at one with his own deepest nature.