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The major theme of the novel is "the survival of the fittest" as shown when Buck defeats Spitz and goes on to master the natural environment in all its harshness; this same environment quickly defeats the three tenderfoot explorers, because they are not "fit" or prepared.
Closely related to the main theme of the novel is the quest motif.
There is something "natural" and primitive in both man and animal. When forced out of the comforts of home, it is possible for man or animal to endure the wilderness if he is driven by a quest for survival and has the will power to do so. Buck clearly personifies the proper drive and will power for survival under the harshest of conditions. Man is capable of the same quest for survival.
A serious, tense mood is developed throughout the story, with Buck experiencing one life-threatening adventure after another. In spite of the tense, serious mood, some of the descriptions are poetic, reflecting London's admiration and respect for Buck's character and the natural environment.