The Willow Tree Survives
The camera zooms in and there is a shot of strong, oak tree. It is covered in thick white snow. After a few seconds, one of the trunks of the tree cracks and falls down.
The accumulation of the snow was too much for the strong tree to handle. The director yells out “cut,” and moves on to the next scene. Here there is a frame of a willow tree. Unlike the tall strong tree, the willow is bending with the wind, and so it survives. This was going to be the opening credit sequences of martial artist Bruce Lee’s film before his unfortunate death.
This scene was inspired by the quote which he wrote, “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind” (Thomas). In order to defeat adversity, one has to be adaptable and flexible in order to survive, and rely on instincts to conquer. If a person decides to be unyielding, he will be destroyed. This is one of the important messages Jack London was trying to convey to his audience in the classic tale of The Call of the Wild, as he express his message through his main character, Buck. The Call of the Wild is thrilling story of a dognapped St.
Bernard/Scottish shepherd mix that is brought back to the wild and learns the rules of survival. The story takes place right after men discover gold in the Klondike region of Canada, and there is a greater demand for strong dogs to pull sledges. Later Buck is dognapped by a gardener named Miller and sold to dog traders. “Buck attempted to face his tormentors. But he was thrown down chocked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filling the heavy brass collar from his neck. Then the rope was removed, and then he was flung into a cage-like crate” (London 8).
London shows this scene in the book to create an image of what it is like to be forced to do something against a person’s will. The dog traders teach Buck to obey by beating him with a club. Later he is shipped off north to the Klondike. There he is forced to work with a group of dogs with different personalities. Their objective was to pull the heaviest amounts of goods, and to cover the most distance possible, in the shortest amount of time. Buck not only adapts quickly but also goes up the ranks of his group, eventually becoming the alpha male dog.
This process of adapting and conquering are key traits of defeating adversity, no matter what form it is. Buck is brought back to his true natural environment (the wild) and is forced to adapt and survive. There are four key traits to this whole process which Buck accomplishes throughout the story. But to understand this process, a person must look into the roots of the past. For this process to even begin there must be a life-changing event or experience.
This happens in the book when Buck gets dognapped. Buck’s character filled with pride and ego and cannot stand the fact that someone of his stature is being imprisoned in a cage, “During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in himself, was even a trifle egotistical” (London 5). This quote explains that Buck lived a life of privilege. He was treated as royalty. Given anything he wanted, he was respected by everyone else.
He has great pride in himself, as London tells his readers the personality of Buck; he tells his readers that Buck has a big ego. This quote also explains what type environment Buck is living in. He lives in a very civilized environment. The built up anger begins to release as he lashes out at the dog trader. “And Buck was truly a red-eyed devil, as he drew himself together for the spring hair bristling, mouth foaming, a mad glitter in his blood-shot eyes.
Straight at the man he launched his one hundred and forty pounds of fury, surcharged with the pent passion of two days and nights” (London 10). London again shows an descriptive image once again. He crates this image of rage and anger by using words such as “mad glitter” and “blood-shot eyes,” it seems as if he is creating a picture of the devil. He does this so that reader can truly grasp what London is trying to show in this scene. The dog trainer easily beats down Buck as if he were just a mere fly. Buck, experiences this pain and concept of failure for the first time, and is shocked by this trauma.
“He received a shock that checked his body and brought his teeth together with an agonizing clip. He whirled over, fetching the ground on his back and side. He had never been struck by a club in his life, and did not understand” (London 10). Buck learns that he is not the one who is in charge. When London says, “received a shock”, in can interpreted to not only physical shock but also emotional shock. London wants his readers to realize that in life a person will experience physical damage but most importantly emotional damage.
He knows that he must now bow down to the dog trader with club, or risk getting beaten badly or worse, end up dead. This event in Buck’s life is the starting point which leads him to begin his process of adapting and conquering. When people are at their lowest point in life, they are open to the greatest change. This was Buck’s lowest point in his life, and also this is the first time he is facing something like this. And this “something” is called reality.
He begins to realize that this is life or death, and here he makes a decision that is his “greatest change,” to survive. He now learns the laws and rules of survival, and this is the first step to the process. “Kill or be killed” is one of the most important laws of survival. Buck learns this the very first day he arrives at the North. It was a cruel and violent day. Buck’s female companion, Curly approaches another husky.
In matter of seconds the husky tears her face open and other dogs attack Curly. Moments later Curly stumbles and falls to the ground. As she lays dying, Buck is shocked and distressed by the bloody mess. “This was what the on looking huskies had waited for. They closed in upon her, snarling and yelping, and she was buried, screaming with agony, beneath the bristling mass of bodies.
So sudden was it, and so unexpected, that Buck was taken aback” (London 15). Buck comes to the conclusion that he must never go down in a fight. He must train his body to prepare for when a fight with other dogs might occur. The ancestors of dogs are wolves, so it is in their blood to hunt and kill. Since the dogs are also in the wild, it is very hard for the dogs to not become wild animals.
It is in their nature to fight for the top spot. Buck realizes that he is not in the civilized world anymore. He can’t depend on others for food and even survival. He is in a different environment, and he knows only the fittest dogs will survive. He departs the world of civilization into the world of the wild. Another law that Buck learned is that the man with club is the person who gives all the rules.
He must obey these rules or else he will have to face the consequences. He experiences the pain of getting hit from the club, and understands that he must bow down to any person with a club. ” A man with a club was a law-giver, a master to be obeyed” (Leonard 53). The final lesson that Buck learns when it comes to the rules of survival is that he must only rely on himself and shouldn’t trust other dogs. Buck learns that he must fend for himself and rely on no other dogs, because if he does it will end up in him getting hurt or killed. He needs to find his own food and his own shelter.
The next trait in the process is to adapt to the new environment. Buck shows excellence in this trait. When Buck first entered the North, he was struggling to survive. He did not know how to face certain difficult situation. He needed to adapt to these difficult situation. So what he did was adapt to the environment by observing other animals and learning from his mistakes.
For example, when Buck was trying to find a place to sleep, he couldn’t go inside the tent, because he would get kicked out. He tried sleeping on the ground, but it was too much cold for him to handle. “He lay down on the snow and attempted to sleep, but the frost soon drove him shivering to his feet. Miserable and disconsolate, he wandered about among many tents, only to find that one place was as cold as another” (London 17-18). Buck trying to sleep on top of the cold snow can represent a new environment. When a person first arrives to an environment that is new, it will be very difficult to adjust.
It seems impossible to find comfort. But Buck sees another dog named Billie lying comfortably in a layer of snow. Buck observes this, and processes it into his mind. He learns and digs a hole for himself. That night Buck sleeps well. “Another lesson.
So that was the way they did it, eh? Buck confident selected a spot, and with much fuss and wasted effort proceeded to dig a hole for himself. In a trice the heat from his body filled the confined space and he was asleep” (London 18). Buck shows the trait of being able to take in new information and adapt to the situation. Here London is trying to tell the audience that in life if there is a problem or conflict, observe the situation first. Then take what is useful and discard what is useless, but add something that is unique. Buck finally finds a way to be comfortable and is seen adjusting to cold snow.
London wants the readers to understand that being flexible will help a person to adjust and eventually be comfortable in a new environment. Another example of Buck adapting to his environment is when he commits a mistake and he learns from it. Buck comes across one of his companions on the team. He is an old dog, named Sol-leks, who lost his left eye. Buck accidently approached Sol-leks on his blind side.
This caused Sol-leks to slash one of Buck’s shoulders. “He had one peculiarity which Buck was unlucky enough to discover. He did not like to be approached on his blind side. Of this offence Buck was unwittingly guilty, and the first knowledge he had of his indiscretion was when Sol-leks whirled upon him and slashed his shoulder to the bone for three inches up and down” (London 17). The next time around Buck approached Sol-leks from the right side and it results in Sol-leks and Buck becoming friends. He made sure not to make the same mistake twice.
London wants his audience to realize that if people make a mistake, they need learn from it, and not to repeat the mistake. Mary Allen states, “While adaptability is his overall strength, a quality potentially damaging to his individuality” (Allen). Allen agrees with London believing in Buck’s strength is adaptability, but she is also concerned with his love of his true individual self. In survival of the fittest, there is no room to worry about finding one’s true self. There is only one goal, and that goal is to survive. After learning those laws of survival and adapting to a new environment, Buck is starting to become more and more like a wild animal rather than a domestic pet.
One key trait that all animals of the wild share, is something called instincts. Instincts for wild animals, especially wolves, can mean either life or death. This trait is something which can’t be taught or learned; it is natural. Only a few people have and a very few of those know how to achieve success. Geismar argues that Instincts are genetically passed down. “In this study of animal Instincts which are the first, as they are final biological response to the blind savagery of existence” (Geismar).
That cannot be true. Then all animals will survive in the wild, and laws of survival would cease to exist. Instincts are like shooting arrow in dark. Not everyone can hit the target. As time progresses in the story, Buck relies more and more on his instincts. “The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck and under the fierce conditions of trail it grew and grew” (London 23).
He was too busy trying to adjust himself to the new life in the wild. He was careful not to pick fights, and most of the time stayed away from them. On the other hand it was difficult for Buck, because his rival, Spitz, would always pick fights with him. One day Buck settles down under a rock for shelter. He leaves to find food.
Upon his return he sees Spitz take his spot, acting on his instincts he attacks Spitz surprisingly. The two began their first clash. They both dip their claws into each other. Then three more huskies join the fight and all of them attack Buck. “Buck was beset by three huskies and in a trice his head and shoulders were ripped and slashed” (London 24). In this scene London is telling his readers that in the road to success there are people who are going to try to stop others from succeeding.
London wants these people to fight or avoid them, and focus on the long term goal. All dogs are injured badly, and decide to part ways, to fight another day. Two days later while Buck is searching for food, he spots a rabbit. As Buck thinks that he will catch the rabbit, Spitz cuts him off and clamps down on the rabbit’s back. Buck, filled with rage, attacks Spitz and the two embark in their final battle.
They are locked on to a battle of death. Buck attacks Spitz, but he patiently dodges each one of Buck’s attacks. Spitz is the more experienced in fighting. After a few minutes Buck is dripping in blood while Spitz is untouched. Not knowing what to do, Buck counts on his instincts to guide him through this death battle. Buck’s next move was surprisingly check mate.
As Spitz begins to rush him, Buck tricks him by rushing against the other dog’s shoulder and then diving for the leg instead. This cause Spitz’s leg to break and he stumbles to the ground. Finally, as other dogs watch, Buck gives the final blow and kills Spitz: There was no hope for him. Buck was inexorable. Mercy was a thing reserved for gentler climes. He maneuvered for the final rush.
The circle had tightened till he could feel the breath of the huskies on his flanks. A pause seemed to fall. Every animal was motionless as though turned to stone. Then Buck sprang in and out; but while he was in, shoulder had at last squarely met shoulder. The dark circle became a dot on the moon-flooded snow as Spitz disappeared from view.
Buck stood and looked on, the successful champion, the dominant primordial beast who had made his kill and found it good. (London 34-35) When Buck was against a wall, not only did he use his instincts, but also used his brain to defeat it. Instead of ramming through the wall, he simply moved around the wall. “But Buck possessed a quality that made for greatness, imagination. He fought by instinct, but he could fight by head as well” (London 34).
The quote explains that when a person faces adversity, they must use all traits which they have, to defeat it. This entire scene represents the strong oak, tree and the willow tree. Since Buck was bending and adapting by using in instincts he was able to defeat his rival and become the pack leader. Spitz was being stubborn and narrow-minded, so he cracked like the oak tree. John Mann comments on Buck’s instincts; he states that “Buck faces experiences that free his instincts long dead to become alive again.
The domesticated generations fell from him” (Mann 57). Here Buck’s instincts have been fully awakened as he believes that he is now at the top of the world. He has used all the key traits from before to survive. As the reader begins to analysis the whole process of Buck’s transformation and began to realize that they too can incorporate these traits into their lives. Chloe Bolan agrees with ” Yet by following his instincts, Buck takes his reader to the deepest reaches of the mind; and the readers, following their instincts, immediately translate Buck’s canine qualities into human ones” (Bolan 52).
Another critic also believes that Buck has crossed over to the wild environment and completely left civilization, “As Buck’s power increase as a result the inhibitions of civilization are stuffed off” (Allen). This shows Buck’s true transformation as he progresses thorough the story, and attains the trait of instincts. Buck has finally come to the last leg of the process. He has truly become a wild animal, making his ancestors proud. At the later stage of the story Buck befriends a human, who he sees as his care taker. Being a warm-blooded creature he begins to from a bond that is unbreakable.
The two become very close and could not be separated. One day, Buck goes into the wild to go hunt for his food. When he arrives back from the hunt he sees his master dead on the ground, because he was attacked by tribe of Yeehat Indians. Filled with of pain and rage, Buck swears to take revenge one the tribe that took away his master. He goes on a man hunt, as he tries to find the men.
When he finally sees the men, he cuts their throat with his fangs, killing several of them: The Yeehats dancing about the wreckage of the spruce bough lodge when they heard a fearful roaring and saw rushing upon them an animal the like of which they had never seen before. It was Buck, a live hurricane of fury hurling himself upon them in frenzy to destroy. He sprang at the foremost man (it was the chief of the Yeehats), ripping the throat wide open till the rent jugular spouted a fountain of blood. He did not pause to worry the victim, but ripped in pausing, with the next bound tearing wide the throat of a second man. There was no withstanding him.
He plunged about in their midst, tearing, rending, destroyed, in constant and terrific motion. (London 80) This scene represents Buck conquering and finally reaching success (or the top). By learning the past key traits and using it successfully, Buck was able to defeat all his adversities and eventually become the dominant beast by committing the greatest task of a wild animal, killing a human being. When the readers visualize this scene in their head, there are flashes of all the things buck has been through being played in their heads, like a roll of film in a photo or camera. This gives the readers goose bumps as they realize what Buck has just accomplished. They began to realize what it truly means to be the willow tree.
If Buck were to be the tall strong tree he would have died a long time ago in the story. One critic specifically talks about this scene in the book, she says, “and even when ill treatment causes him to revert the dominant primordial beast he is a symbol of what man can do to overcome obstacles and become leader of his fellows”(Leonard 55). Ashley Leonard believes that Buck has conquered his environment and readers can incorporate these ideas and keys into the reader’s own life to be successful. This is also London’s objective in writing this book. He wants the reader to be the willow tree, so the reader can learn the laws of survival, adapt to the new environment, rely on instincts, and finally conquer it.
When the reader finishes reading the book, London wants them to take away something from the book. He wants them to think about his message. His message was that, in order to defeat adversity, one has to be adaptable and flexible in order to survive, and rely on instincts to conquer. If a person decides to be unyielding, he will be destroyed. He wants his readers to be a willow tree so they too can defeat their own unique adversities. This book also makes readers think about their lives.
Are they truly capable of achieving success? Can they be flexible and adaptable to defeat adversities in life? Can they rely on instinct and believe in themselves to go to the top? These questions are running through peoples’ minds that have a dream or a goal. Yes, humans are capable of reaching their potential by possessing these traits. This for a few can lead to success. If more people incorporate these ideas into the people’s day to day life, they can be successful at whatever they do. Bruce Lee followed these key traits and he ended up being one of the greatest martial artist and actor this world has ever seen before. Bruce Lee looked at the problem, and observed them.
He next adapted to it, and trusted his instincts. Throughout the story Buck being made more people can learn from them. If more people can see their reflection and see the mistake they are making, they will eventually learn to fix it and survive.