A study on Jack London’s The call of the wild : an application of organizational behavior theories



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This dissertation examines Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (1903) from a business organization perspective. The novel has long been read as a Naturalistic work with primitiveness and virility at its core. However, this study focuses on London’s presentation of the environment of dog-sledding in the Klondike, into which the dog Buck, his main character, is thrown, as not only primitive but also distinguished by complex organizational characteristics. The novel traces Buck's experiences with several groups of masters, each exhibiting a different leadership style. Buck begins as a mere “hand” in his organization, but he fights for leadership and eventually proves his excellence by rising to the leader position among the team. Although Jack London was never an organization man, his experience as a literary businessman and his previous experience as a manual laborer helped him capture the zeitgeist of a time when Americans experienced the peak of industrialization and, as a result, the ever increasing influence of business and business organizations in American society. London is one of the originators of a genre that might be referred to as business fiction. Two theories of Organizational Behavior, which is a field in the academic discipline of Management, were used for this study: David C. McClelland’s Achievement Motivation Theory and Robert J. House’s Path-Goal Leader Effectiveness Theory. Using McClelland’s theory, this study found that Buck has a high need for Achievement, and his high achievement motivation is contrasted with that of the other characters—both human and canine. Buck’s character in the novel is close to that of an entrepreneur as defined by McClelland, and thus the novel can be read as a story of a businessman who rises to become CEO owing to exceptional abilities as a business leader. In addition, this study applies House’s theory in evaluating the impact of the various leadership styles of human masters on the behavior and performance of subordinate members of their dog teams. The results of this case study of The Call of the Wild suggest the possibility of applying Organizational Behavior theories to interpreting other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century fictions.