In every story, book, or novel, most characters generally undergo changes as time progresses, for better or for worse. Such characters must adjust to their environment and the surroundings around them. The adaptations they make can play a substantial role on how they advance and develop as the story goes on. In works of literature such as “To Build a Fire” (book), “The Call of the Wild” (book), and White Fang (movie), numerous characters share a common trait, in which they use their environment in their stories to make adaptations. The adaptations they make are the deciding factors on whether they succeed or not in what they are trying to accomplish. In some instances, certain characters can have such an impact with their adaptations and development, they can influence a story’s theme. Characters that change using adaptations, have affected each story’s overall theme can be found in ‘the man’ in “To Build a Fire”, Buck’s interactions with others, as well as Hal and Charles from “The Call of the Wild”, and White Fang, Beauty, Tinker, Luke and Jack Conroy from the movie, White Fang.
A character who exemplified adaptations and its effect on a story’s theme can be shown through the main character in “To Build a Fire”. The man was in the Yukon winter and attempted to go out in the extremely frigid environment. Having very little knowledge of the Yukon and very little survival skills at all, he still had very much confidence in himself and that he could make it through and survive. In lines 22-25, London explains, “the distant trail, no sun in the sky, the great cold, and the strangeness of it all-had no effect on the man. It was not because he was long familiar with it.
He was a newcomer in the land, and this was his first winter” (London 65). Consequently, he had many struggles on the cold, wintry day and eventually died. The man was unable to adjust to the climate he was faced with and could not make adaptations towards it. His lack of knowledge and experience did not change him as a character, and negatively impacted him and the story’s theme as well.
His stubbornness and lack of intelligence gave the story a theme of foolishness and its influence on survival. His foolishness showed that personal ideas and logic should not be put over scientific knowledge and factual information. Knowing that “it was colder than 50 below”, choosing to still go out in such brutal conditions was a very poor choice and the most definitely the man’s choice between life or death (London 65). Buck and his interactions with other characters from the book, “The Call of the Wild” is another example of how adaptations influence a story’s theme. The story opens up as Buck being a house dog to Judge Miller, living in a big house in the Santa Clara Valley (London 1). Buck envisions himself as the leader of Judge Miller’s house and the area surrounding it (London 1). He is then sold by a servant of Judge Miller, to later be trained and turned into a sled dog (London 3).
Buck is then faced with “the man in the red sweater”, whose job is to tame dogs to be used for sledding (London 5). At the time, Buck thought very highly of himself, and that nobody should be greater or higher in rank than him. As a result, he disobeyed “the man in the red sweater” and suffered the consequence by doing so. Buck ended up with “blood flowing from nose and mouth and ears” from the man beating him “crushingly to the ground” (London 5). From that experience, Buck learned to respect and obey humans, that the pain and agony he suffered that very day would stand as a reminder of what could happen to him.
Buck was able to adapt to humans and their orders told to him, making his life so much easier in the long run. Learning to respect humans greatly impacted Buck’s personality and tolerance throughout the book, showing how an adaptation can contribute to a story as a whole. The dog, Buck, from “The Call of the Wild” also showed his contribution to the story’s theme with a dog named Spitz. When Buck was a member of a sled team, he was given a position to work with alongside other dogs. Grouped with Buck and other teammates was a dog named Spitz, who “was the leader” of the pack (London 9). Buck and Spitz did not bode well with each other, with Spitz going “out of his way to bully Buck” and Buck’s pride and rebellious attitude countering against him (London 15). In many instances, Spitz would purposely instigate trouble and tension between the two of them. In an attempt to stand up against Spitz as well as gain leadership status of the sled team, Buck had no choice but to face him in a dual, which London noted that it would “end only in the death of one or the other” (London 15).
The moment had come for the two to battle, and as “Spitz was a practised fighter”, Buck, on the other hand “possessed a quality that made for greatness- imagination” (London 23-24). Upon exchanging blows back and forth upon one another, the brawl reached its turning point when Buck bit and broke Spitz’s right and left forelegs (London 24). As a result, Buck finished him off, and as he left the scene in victory, London acknowledged him by saying, “Buck stood and looked on, the successful champion, the dominant primordial beast who had made his kill and found it good” (London 24). Buck stepping up to the challenge and choosing to rebel against Spitz displayed his approach to survival and made him a more dominant individual.
He willingly fought and proved himself to be the stronger of the two by conquering his enemy in a creative and aggressive fashion. Fighting for his right helped him widen his survival instincts much greater and therefore taught him what it takes to be a true leader and a tough, skillful dog in the wild. Two additional characters from “The Call of the Wild” who had played a part in shaping the story’s theme with their actions were Hal and Charles. Hal and Charles were two American men who had purchased Buck and the sled team to assist them in their search for gold.
They also brought along a women named Mercedes, who was “Charles’s wife and Hal’s sister” (London 32). The trio had no previous experience at all when faced with challenges of survival, likewise to the man in “To Build a Fire”. They had trouble with basic things, as they were new to the Yukon and how to carry out life.
For example, even Buck had noticed their inexperience, as London explained, “Buck saw a slipshod and slovenly affair, tent half stretched, dishes unwashed, everything in disorder” (London 32). On that note, the three had also packed their sled too heavy, containing a lot of weight the dogs couldn’t pull, and when three neighboring men had tried to offer them advice, they blatantly just ignored them (London 34). Hal did not take into account the weight of the sled and blamed it on the dogs, calling them “lazy” and “weak as water” (London 33). He continued taking it out on the dogs, with the whip “whistling savagely” upon them (London 34). Little did he know, the sled had been frozen down into the snow due to all the weight it had, only after an onlooker had mentioned it to them in an attempt to help (London 34).
Later on in the story, the sled team came to a point where there was thin ice ahead of them, and Hal had commanded them to go over it (London 40). The dogs refused, which led to more torture with the whip (London 40). Hal began to beat Buck the most, due to him being the leader of the pack. An onlooker by the name of John Thornton was a witnesses of the occurrences at the moment, and he stood up for Buck and freed him from the stupidity of Hal, Charles, and Mercedes (London 41). Once Buck was taken, the sled team and the trio proceeded on, and eventually fell into the ice the dogs had previously tried to avoid (London 41).
The three American people were incapable of making adaptations to the environment which they were faced with, due to their lack of knowledge and stubborn attitude towards help. Acting in such a way restricted them from being able to achieve what they were going for, in which they could not make the adaptations necessary to survive. All of characters explained from the book, “The Call of the Wild”, had a correlation with each other and a connection to form one particular theme. Buck opened up the story as a typical, ordinary house dog, and through many experiences that he was faced with, was shaped into something much greater than as before. Buck had transformed through the course of the story into a strong-willed, resilient true leader by adapting to his surroundings and by doing what was necessary for him to survive and succeed. Hal and Charles, on the other hand, came into the story as dull and inexperienced with the Yukon and how to live life within it. Without any prior knowledge or background, the group had failed miserably to direct a dog sled team, or to even be able to complete their search for gold at all.
They didn’t make any type of adaptation whatsoever and were very unsuitable for the Yukon environment. Buck, Hal, and Charles all showed that survival instincts and skills are extremely necessary to succeed and adapt to different things. In Buck, it was obvious that he possessed all the skills needed to survive, in which he reaped the reward and success from it. Hal and Charles did not have the skills that Buck had, and it showed and reflected through their many actions.
All in all, the three characters developed and created a theme that the best, and only the best survival skills and instincts make it the farthest when exposed to different challenges.A third and final source that exhibited character’s adaptations and their role in aiding a story’s theme is found in the movie, White Fang. The main character, White Fang, was introduced to the story as a young wolf dog mix, with his mother providing him with food and shelter in the Yukon environment. As the movie went on, White Fang’s mother had been shot by a man named Skunker when trying to get food for him (Kleiser n.p.). For that point on, White Fang had to learn on his own on how to survive and gather food in the Yukon without support from his mother. White Fang scampered around the land in curiosity when trying to learn to search for food, and was caught in a trap set by a nearby Indian tribe (Kleiser n.
p.). The Indians found him tangled in it, freed him, and trained him to become a work dog for their tribe. He was tame and became a reliable dog for them for some time, until Grey Beaver, the chief of the tribe, brought him into town, where three men instigated a dog fight between him and their dog named Buck (Kleiser n.p.
). The three men, with the names Tinker, Beauty and Luke, said their dog had been attacked by White Fang, (since Grey Beaver was not watching when the dogs fought) and threatened to tell local government officials about what happened (Kleiser n.p.). Grey Beaver had no choice but to trade White Fang away to the men, and the men used White Fang as a fighting dog, as a way to get money.
He was able to comply with the three, doing all that they wanted and expected of him. White Fang adapted to the men and figured out very quickly of what the men wanted him to accomplish. Acting as he did helped him understand the means of survival and helped become a more intelligent individual as a result. Being cooperative with them and the Indians as well had an importance and meaning to the story as a whole, supplying fuel to drive the movie’s theme.In addition to the three men and Grey Beaver in White Fang, another man helped created the story’s theme, with the name of Jack Conroy.
Jack came up to the Yukon in search of gold, and his father had a claim of land that was said to harbor it. He went up north from California and was told by his father to search for a man named Alex Larson to take him to the claim (Kleiser n.p.). He found him, and Alex had his doubts with Jack, since Jack had never been nor experienced life in the Yukon. Alex was willing to let him come along, so long as he didn’t “fall behind” (Kleiser n.
p.). The two went on their search, along with a dog sled team and Alex’s assistant named Skunker.
Making it to the claim came with many challenges, with the lead dog and Skunker being eaten by wolves, and Jack falling on thin ice. They made it to the claim, amid their losses. They began searching for gold, after they made an agreement that Alex would teach Jack how to mine, as long as Jack would teach Alex how to read (Kleiser n.p.).
After working for multiple days looking for gold, the two of them found it necessary to go back to town (Kleiser n.p.). They made there way there, and on their visit, Jack noticed a dog fighting ring taking place in a barn.
Fighting in the ring was White Fang, who was struggling against another dog (Kleiser n.p.). Jack had seen White Fang in the past with the Indian tribe, so he went to help him break free from the attacking dog and the surrounding men. Jack and Alex took White Fang home and helped him regain his strength.
They later took him to the claim, where Jack wanted to train him and use him as a pet. It was a mighty challenge for Jack, because White Fang had grown to gather many wolf-like habits and instincts when tortured and trained to be aggressive. He acted in a way of his primordial ancestors; a monster and a beast, who was the polar opposite a domesticated house dog. With hard work and dedication, Jack was able to train and tame White Fang to be a calm and loving companion to him. Though he was bitten on his hand in the process, his drive and determination to change White Fang proved to be enough to convert him back to his earlier form. Jack Conroy’s ability to use what he was given and adapt towards it, being both the Yukon and White Fang, served as one last substantial piece in forming the overall theme and message of the movie.
Both Jack and White Fang alike were able to acclimate themselves with the conflicts and different surroundings and in their lives. Jack was able to learn to live and become familiar with the Yukon environment. He was also able to work and get along with Alex Larson, as well as tame a wild dog that had little or no signs of being capable to be tamed. In comparison, White Fang was able to cope and cooperate with every owner that had him. He was a dependable work dogs for the Indian tribe, a nearly unbeatable wolf dog in the ring for Beauty, and a loving a supportive companion for Jack Conroy. All the adjustments he made with different humans revealed his true adaptability and the impact of being reliable to his owners. The two characters both demonstrated that being adaptable and suitable to different environments helps anything become achievable, no matter what the difficulty.
Their actions and the way they carried on in life was marked by their willingness to change and be versatile to different things. Altogether, that one single trait the two shared formed the movie’s theme, in that adaptability is key in survival, and being able to adapt to different situations can help an individual make it through life easier and more efficiently. All the main characters in “To Build a Fire”, “The Call of the Wild”, and White Fang had proven that their actions and adaptations in their stories had a significance to each of their themes. ‘The man’ in “To Build a Fire” displayed a theme that personal knowledge should not be put over science and proven information. Buck, Hal and Charles formed a theme in “The Call of the Wild” that survival skills and instincts must be present in order to survive and succeed in the wild or in new situations and environments. Lastly, White Fang and Alex Conroy established a theme that adaptability and being versatile to different types of challenges and situations greatly helps an individual go on through life easier. Also, being versatile and suitable to different things makes them more capable of achieving a wider variety of success. Each and every one of the characters had to develop and adjust to different conflicts and settings in each story and though some were able to, there some that did not.
Whether they adapted in their stories or not, all the characters played an important role in producing an effective theme that portrayed an important message not just for the sake of the story, but for the reader’s benefit as well.