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Rhetorical Devices in The Call of the Wild

Rhetorical Devices Examples in The Call of the Wild:

Chapter I

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"money chinked between them...."   (Chapter I)

The word “chinked” here is an example of onomatopoeia. Something else to notice here (especially in connection with being led by a rope around the next, as Buck is described in the next paragraph), is the echo of the historical context of chattel slavery. Slave narratives also sometimes began with a scene of abduction. The Civil War had been over for decades, but many of London’s contemporaries, such as Charles W. Chesnutt, were also still telling stories about slavery because of the ongoing political developments of Reconstruction. As a socialist, London would have drawn connections between the economic structures of the American South and the broader dynamics of a capitalist enterprise such as gold mining. Buck’s heritage has already been tied explicitly to European breeds, so he is not directly symbolic of African Americans. But the suggestion that even such a proud figure could be treated like an African slave would resonate a bit outrageously.

"yellow metal..."   (Chapter I)

London could simply have written “gold” here. But “yellow metal” is more appropriate to Buck’s perspective since dogs don’t share human names for substances. Instead, a dog might be assumed to recognize something’s objective qualities.

"Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland...."   (Chapter I)

“Because… because...”: Although two instances are generally not enough by themselves to constitute anaphora, the repetition of “because” at the start of these two dependent clauses suggests the story’s themes of determinism. Their use suggests that the effect (“thousands of men… rushing”) follows so logically from the two causes as to be inevitable. It seems neither men nor dogs have choices.

"BUCK DID NOT READ the newspapers..."   (Chapter I)

Since this is the first sentence of the novel, readers are unlikely to know (though they might catch on by the sentence’s end) that Buck is not human. Thus, this first sentence is an example of irony. The situation is not simply that Buck the dog “did not read”; the problem is that he could not read. This lack of control or even ability to know or affect the larger forces “brewing” around him thus begins themes of agency in the novel.

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