White Fang – Courage, Courage and Fear
The title of the book is White Fang. The author of the book is Jack London. The novel has many different locations in which it is set in. Most of White Fang takes place in the Yukon Territory which is a section of Canada. The territory is very icy and cold. The area is full of beautiful mountains and lakes. It is also filled with people looking for gold. It also takes places in an Indian camp which is a point where the stream and the Mackenzie River meet. The Indian camp is located in the Yukon Territory and White Fang lives there while he is in the custody of Grey Beaver. White Fang is later taken to Dawson by his abusive owner, Beauty Smith. The last part of the book takes place in Sierra Vista, California which is where Weedon Scott’s home is located. Sierra Vista is very loud and crowded. White Fang feels intimidated at first by the immense buildings and bright lights, but he soon gets used to it. The book is set during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush.
The main character of the book is White Fang. White Fang’s mother, Kiche, is half wolf, half dog. His father, One Eye, is full wolf. White Fang is a dynamic character, meaning that he changes and grows throughout the novel. White Fang’s behavior changes drastically in each environment in which he lives in. His environment molds him. Some make him ferocious, and some tame him. One way to describe White Fang is intelligent. White Fang shows intelligence when he lives with the Indians. His level of knowledge allows him to learn that he must obey the “gods” in order to not be beaten up. White Fang had always lived his life as a wild wolf, so being able to figure this out on his own shows how intelligent he is. Moreover, White Fang also shows intelligence when he must learn which animals he is allowed to mess with in Weedon Scott’s home in California. Judge Scott, Weedon Scott’s father, is skeptical that White Fang will be able to learn to leave the chickens alone and he even makes a bet with his son. Their bet is that White Fang will be locked in the chicken coop, and for every chicken that White Fang kills, Weedon will have to pay his father a gold coin. For every ten minutes that he does not kill a chicken, Judge Scott will have to say “White Fang, you are smarter that I thought.” White Fang ignores all of the chickens proving that he is intelligent enough to realize what he is and is not allowed to do. White Fang uses his intelligence to create a law for himself that says that ” between him and all domestic animals there must be no hostilities. But the other animals- the squirrels, and quail, and cottontails-were features of the Wild who had never yielded allegiance to man. They were the lawful prey of any dog. It was only the tame that the gods protected, and between the tame deadly strife was not permitted”. White Fang can also be described as ferocious yet civilized. One example of this is that White Fang is known as being one of the most savage dogs in the North when he is under the mastery of Beauty Smith. In contrast, even though it takes time to adjust, White Fang learns to be a family dog under Weedon Scott’s mastery. To summarize, White Fang can be described by his ferociousness, and civilized and intelligent acts.
The main conflict in the book is an external conflict concerning White Fang. The conflict is wolf vs. man. The conflict is that White Fang must learn to suppress his natural instincts in order to live according to man’s ways. White Fang is a wild wolf at heart, he has all of the natural instincts of the wild. When he goes to live with different “gods” he must live by their rules meaning that he must suppress his natural instincts. During his early life, White Fang lives as a wild wolf with his mother, Kiche. They then live with an Indian village where Grey Beaver is their master. During the time in which White Fang is under Grey Braver’s mastery, he must obey him. Humans demand obedience and respect from dogs so White Fang must yield to anything Grey Beaver says. Obeying a “god” however, requires doing whatever the human wants and therefore White Fang must suppress his natural instincts. One example of this is that White Fang snarls when he is petted by humans. His natural instinct would be to not allow anyone to touch him because it is a threat to his survival but White Fang must allow his master to touch him. During his stay in the Indian Camp, White Fang develops many urges and he must fight all of them. He remembers the time in which he did not have a master and remembers how he could roam free and misses that. White Fang then lives with an abusive owner, Beauty Smith. He is treated as an exhibit and like a fighting pawn in a game of bets. In this environment, White Fang must fight not for food but for human viewing pleasure which goes against his instincts of hunting for food. White Fang then goes to live with a loving owner, Weedon Scott. White Fang has never experienced or seen love so he is surprised by certain love demonstrative actions like hugging. When Weedon Scott hugs his mother, White Fang interprets that as a hostile act and he almost attacks her. Also, White Fang does not understand human laws of hunting. One example of this is when he kills fifty chickens and shows them to Weedon Scott as if he has done an amazing thing. Weedon Scott is not happy about this because White Fang killed domesticated animals. In the wild, any animal is up for grabs, or in other words, any animal can be killed for food at any moment. The conflict is resolved when White Fang starts loving Weedon Scott and starts deeply respecting mankind. He is willing to change his ways for mankind and he starts expressing loyalty and faithfulness towards Scott. Scott shows White Fang the order and respect of civilization which allows White Fang to live at peace with both his wolf and dog parts. Throughout the novel there is a constant struggle between White Fang’s natural instincts and man’s laws, but in the end White Fang learns to easily suppress his instincts in order to follow his love-master’s orders.
The most important theme of the book is that only the fittest survive. One example of how the theme of survival of the fittest is portrayed in the book is that only White Fang survives the famine with his family. He is the strongest cub so he is able to survive it, but his siblings are not so lucky. Another example is that White Fang is able to adapt to every environment that he is put through. He learns the laws of each place and uses his strength and courage to protect himself from any danger in each environment. When White Fang lives with the Indians and he is persecuted by Lip-Lip and the other puppies, he learns that he must become the strongest, the smartest, and fastest out of all the puppies in the village in order to survive. A final example of how survival of the fittest is the main message of this book is when the narrator explains the main rule of life in the wild. The main rule is, ” The aim of life was meat… The law was: Eat or be eaten”. This quote means that all animals in the wild must fight to stay alive and only the strongest will survive. White Fang is the embodiment of the concept of only the fittest survive because he goes through many different challenges yet he able to survive due to his ability to quickly adapt. These challenges include fighting other dogs, obeying new masters, and becoming lovable and tamable. Throughout the novel, London wants the readers to take away the concept that being strong takes you far in the wild.
White Fang – Movie Review and Analysis
Two outdoorsmen are out in the wild of the north. They are on a mission to deliver the body and coffin of a famous person. Their dogs disappear as they are entised by a she-wolf and eaten by the rest of the pack. They only have three rounds of ammunition left and Bill, one of the men, uses them to try to save one of their dogs that is being attacked; he misses and is eaten by the pack with the dog. Only Henry and two dogs are left; he makes a fire with leaves and scattered branches, trying to drive away the wolves. They draw in close and he is almost eaten, saved only by a company of men who were traveling nearby. The wolves are in the midst of a starvation. They continue on running and hunting, lead by several wolves alongside the she-wolf, and when they finally find food the pack starts to split up. The she-wolf mates with one of the wolves and has a litter of pups inside an abandoned cave. Only one survives after several more famines and harsh weather, and he grows strong and is a feisty pup.
The puppy learns the basics of hunting and survival. They come to an Indian village where the she-wolf’s (who is actually half-wolf, half-dog) master is. He catches her again and White Fang, her pup, stays nearby. Soon, she is sold to another Indian, while White Fang stays with Gray Beaver, her master. White fang whines and cries but it does’nt help. The other dogs of the village terrorize White Fang, especially one named Lip-lip, who for now is bigger and stronger. White Fang becomes more and more vicious, more like a wolf than a dog, encouraged by his master who beats him. One day he meets is mother and is turned to a light-hearted pup but, his mother does’nt even notice him. He kills other dogs that used to terroize him. Gray Beaver goes to Fort Yukon to trade and discovers whiskey, which he calls sweet water. White Fang is passed into the hands of Beauty Smith, a monster of a man who got Grey Beaver drunk and tricked him into selling Whit Fang.
Beaty Smith put White Fang ino dogfighting and he fights other dogs until he meets his match in a bulldog from the east and is saved only by a man named Scott. Scott tames White Fang and takes him back to California with him. There White Fang learns to love his master and his master’s family, who dont take kindly to him at first, and even saves Scott’s father in the middle of the night from a convict that escaped from the nearby prison. White Fang has puppies with Collie, one of the master’s dogs, and lives a happy life.
Anthropomorphism and the Theme of Survival in Jack London’s Story White Fang
White Fang is an endearing story of a young man and the dog that he befriends on his journeys to find fortune in the harsh Yukon. Jack London presents this classic tale of the gold rush to the American Northwest. Jack London grew up in the seedier part of his town. He saw many good people grow to enter a life of crimes because it was the only thing that they could do. London is known to be the greatest writer of nature stories and animal tales. He also has some recurring themes throughout his novels. He focuses on animals as humans, stresses Darwinism, and believes that ones actions are dictated by their surroundings.
London portrays animals as humans and men as animals in his books. This may be by their actions, or thoughts. He possesses love for his master, Scott. Enough love, in fact, that he would leave everything to come with him to California. He also has nightmares, which suggests that he has a consciousness. He gives the animals intelligence enough to trick the humans. This is shown when Kirche sneaks amongst the dogs and is given a fish. The dogs, sensing a threat, got close to the camp of the humans, which was unusual. Henry said, Theyre pretty wise, them dogs.(p 107) Also, White Fang has a substantial amount of deductive capability. When his mother leaves the den, he wonders how the she wolf can pass through the, white wall of light.(p 153) He also goes on to contemplate why he cannot pass through the other walls. He learns well, and that is why he survives so long, and why he is considered one of the fiercest dogs ever.
He uses the theory of survival of the fittest in his novel. However, in this novel it is more along the lines of the law of nature. All the living animals in the forest strictly obey this law. The fight over Kirche, White Fangs mother, between One-eye and the others is an example of this. They had to fight each other to win the right to mate with her, and thus, the right to live and continue their line. One-eye wouldnt eat their pups because that would be against the natural law that all living things abided by. The lynx that enters Kirches lair presents the, EAT OR BE EATEN,(p 166) law again. If the lynx was not killed, it would have killed both Kirche and White Fang. This law did not dictate the animals entire life because they were also directed by their circumstances.
London also believes that a person or animals behavior is shaped by the circumstances that surround their lives. The first example of this is the wolf pack that attacks Henry and Bill. They did not want to stay together, but the famine brought them to a temporary treaty to find food. Once they bring down the moose and feast, they begin to break up and live on their own. White Fangs whole attitude of being the proverbial, lone wolf, and his hatred for others stems from the lack of love and the presence of Lip-lip in the Indian village. Lip-lip was White Fangs own kind, and, being only a puppy, did not seem so dangerous; (p 175) he tended to bully and provoke the other dogs to attack Fang. He spent his whole life as a puppy hiding from the other dogs and fighting to stay alive. He eventually leaves his life of fighting because of the love of Scott, but his old ways revisit him. Beauty Smith comes to steal White Fang from Scott, but White Fang is driven out of his calm state to attack Smith. This attack was not out of his hatred for him, but for his love for Scott. His attack on Jim Hall was a similar incident. He attacked him because he threatened the safety of the Scott family. Jim Hall was similar to White Fang, in the fact that he was pushed until he finally responded the only way he knew how, through violence. Judge Scott wrongly imprisoned him, and this was the only thing he felt he could do.
London portrays animals as humans and vice versa, emphasizes the law of the jungle, and believes that people are trapped by their social circumstances. Londons views are the key focal point in the story. If White Fang had not lived by these principles he would not have lasted as long as he did. Christians know that the only law is Gods law, and we must follow it. If we dont we have much to lose than a wolf.
Nature Vs Nurture in Jack London’s to Build a Fire and White Fang
Analysis of Characters in Regard to Nature vs. Nurture
Jack London’s short stories To Build A Fire (1908 edition) and White Fang both contain characters that display the theme of nature versus nurture. Based on their actions in the stories, the wolf-dog and Jim Hall would support natural instinct while Judge Scott would be a supporter of nurture over nature. While most of the characters in these short stories express one side of the argument more than the other, they are all capable of demonstrating the other side as well. London often depicts some characters as being more dependant on their natural instincts that help them make decisions and ensure their survival, while other characters act based off of their knowledge. While animals primarily rely on their natural instincts, London shows that this trait is not exclusive to animals through human characters that make actions based off of instinct rather than from experience or learning. Additionally, London shows that behavior based on nurture is not entirely exclusive to humans and that animals can also learn and consequently act based on what they have learned.
The wolf-dog from Jack London’s 1908 edition of To Build a Fire, relies primarily on natural instinct for most for most of his actions and thoughts. This is first observed towards the beginning of the story when the wolf-dog knows naturally that it is too cold to travel but it has no concept of what specific temperature is like the man does. This demonstrates that the wolf-dog’s instinct is far more reliable than man’s. Additionally, when the man and wolf-dog stop to rest, the wolf-dog inherently knows how to keep warm while the man struggles to make a fire in order to stay warm, suggesting that nature is better than nurture in a survival situation. However, the wolf-dog also has learned to trust and respect his owner, this shows the wolf-dog’s nurture side and how it has learned to trust and respect the man through his past experiences. Eventually, the wolf-dog outlives the man through the cold weather because his natural instinct is more effective than the man’s nurture and whatever knowledge he may have learned about surviving in the cold proved to be less effective. However the wolf-dog diverges from its predominant habits of natural instinct after the man dies “it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food providers and fire providers” (London). Returning back to where mankind is not a natural instinct for the wolf-dog, it learned that where humans are there is food and companionship.
Judge Scott from Jack London’s White Fang lives a nurtured lifestyle and consequently would favor nurture over nature. Judge Scott’s lifestyle is not physically challenging like it is for characters that found themselves in the harsh conditions of the wilderness. As a result of Judge Scott’s sheltered lifestyle he doesn’t need to rely as much on natural instinct which is generally associated with survival. Instead Judge Scott’s characteristics stem from nurture, and his success is reliant on non survival dependant skills such as social skills and education. Judge Scott eventually adopts White Fang and tries to nurture him into a docile and domesticated animal. Eventually White Fang learns how to act like a tame animal that’s appropriate for the family. Judge Scott’s impression of his nurtured lifestyle onto White Fang shows the value of nurture and how it can be beneficial in certain settings such as one where survival instincts are less important in comparison.
Jim Hall, from Jack London’s White Fang, represents the complete opposite view of Judge Scott. Jim Hall is a very large man who is almost beastlike, bringing back the idea that natural instincts are more animalistic. In addition, the fact that Hall does hard labor all day in the fort suggests than he has had little opportunity to develop any nurtured habits. Also being in the opposite social class and side of the law of Judge Scott aligns similarly with their opposite viewpoints on nature vs nurture.
In conclusion, the characters from Jack London’s White Fang and To Build a Fire contrast different characteristics and viewpoints of the nature vs nurture argument. The wolf-dog displays mainly inherent natural instincts in its behavior while also showing some learned behavior. Judge Scott fully supports nurture given his more sheltered lifestyle, while on the other hand Jim Hall’s actions are mainly influenced by instinct, similar to that of an animal yet he is still human. These characters show both man and dog can display any combination of nature and nurture in the way they act, and that one is not entirely separate from the other.
White Fang Book Review
Situation in Novel: In the Novel, the author mentions the difference of humans feeling for the wolves and dogs. He says that when the wolves look at people in strangely wistful way, their wistfulness there was none of the dog affection. The primary task of most wolves in the wild is to survive, so their desire for hunger is very ferocious. Therefore, people take precautions against the action of these wolves. (London 44)
Personal Reflection: This reminds me of two words spoken by the ancient Chinese: “The rat crosses the street and everyone shouted to kill it.” And “People welcome the arrival of magpies.” The reason why people responded to rats so intensely was that rat expressed malicious behavior at the beginning (they steal food), but the arrival of magpies is always accompanied by a beautiful singing. This explains why people treat animals differently, which is all depending on how the animals treat humans.
Situation in Novel: In the novel, the White Fang’s mother did not tell the White Fang after she had guessed that his father had suffered from the accident. (The White Fang is the name of the main character, which is a wolf.) In the case of food shortages, One Eye is an important member of the family because he can help find food. When the end of a second and less severe famine, the she-wolf knows why One Eye (White Fang’s father) never came back. But she (probably out of protection) did not explain to White Fang. (London 134)
Personal Reflection: I didn’t know before that this kind of emotion would exist between animals. I thought it was just a special emotion that only humans would derive. We habitually call this behavior a white lie, but this is somewhat different from the situation in the novel. This she-wolf did not choose to lie, but chose not to talk about it any more. I prefer to call this behavior “a concealment of good intentions.” Just like my grandfather was in the late stage of cancer, no one told him that he was ill.
Situation in Novel: In the novel, the cub (the little White Fang) is under the Indian’s control and he experiences two impulsions: yield or fight. Then some of its resistance was punished, and then careful resistances were punished again and again. Finally, when he saw his mother (his finally hope) surrender to humanity, he gave up his resistance. He realized that he could not protect himself at all, so he had to act in violation of his nature to surrender to humanity. (London 181&184)
Personal Reflection: This detail reminds me of a psychological study of animals. This psychological research found a typical behavior which occurs when the subject endures repeatedly painful and it is not be able to avoid, they will choose not to do resistances any more. It was called Learned helplessness. In historical records, humans actually have similar psychology. In the face of a powerful aggression, the failure of multiple wars will allow the vulnerable country to choose to sign an unequal treaty. (Like China during the Qing Dynasty)
Situation in Novel: At the end of the story, White Fang was seriously injured to protect Scott (White Fang’s host). The whole family is gathere around the doctor’s office to here the verdict. The surgeon says that he (White Fang) has not a chance in ten thousand. However, Scott is exclaimed that White Fang must not lose any chance that might be of help to him. As the surgeon says that Scott deserves all that can be done for White Fang, because this wolf is like his own sick child. (London 516)
Personal Reflection: If in this book, White Fang’s gratitude and friendship to Scott is as warm as the sea; then Scott’s love for White Fang is like a stream that slowly penetrates the reader’s heart. At this moment, I will not long think that Scott is the owner of White Fang. The human emotions for animals are determined at the moment they are named. That’s why you don’t feel sad about the pork in the supermarket, but you will be saddened by a bird that you have never seen again after you named it. Just like the story of the little prince, getting along with it and it becomes special to you.
Situation in Novel: When White Fang first met Scott, he was only attracted by Scott’s food. So when he found that he need a god and he prefer Scott’s than Smith, the evolution of like into love. He is in the process of finding himself and finally like ahd been replaced by love. At this moment, White Fang knows that Scott is his god, a love-god, a warm and radiant god. The thing he wanna get is only the friendly snap of fingers and the word of greeting, the meat that his longing for is not important any more. (London 414)
Personal Reflection: The same is true in the growth of life. Things that are obsessive at first, and unwilling to give up may also become unimportant because of the experience that follows. The story of White Fang’s feelings about Scott reminds me of my cousin’s word. “I used to love a city deeply, but after many years I discovered the true is that I fall in love with someone in this city. Therefore, when I leave with the people that I love, I found that I will love every city in this world.” Perhaps at the beginning, White Fang was redeemed by Scott’s gentleness; at that time he just didn’t know what love is.
Setting – Required Question 1:Identify the setting of the story; include geographical details, time period, and conditions.
The story takes place in the Wild, the savage, Frozen-hearted Northland Whild. (In Yukon and Canada) Starting with the birth background of main characters (White Fang). The condition of this novel for the main character is unusual, which is a very difficult wild environment. They must not only face the hunger and food shotrages brought about by the cold, but also face internal struggles and other large animals.(lynx) Then came the death of White Fang’s father and then left his mother’s life.
Seting Question 2: What is unique about the setting of the book, and how does it enhance or take away from the story?
The book is divided into five parts, but these five parts perfectly explain White Fang’s background and a series of experiences. It won’t be dominated by a large-scale description of the background（Almost two and a half big part). These large-scale family backgrounds have paved the way for the personality characteristics that White Fang has shown. White Fang’s mother is one-half of the wolf gene, and he is three-quarters of the wolf gene. And the early experience also explained the reaction he showed later.
Required Question 3: Identify the main character and explain why you liked or disliked him/her.
The character is a wolf (three-quarters of the wolf gene) that inherits the wildness of the wolf but also inherits the servility of the dog as a result of being tamed. I think I like this character very much because it is not blindly rebellious. He is a very intelligent image in the author’s pen and knows how to be grateful and rewarding. At the same time, his loyalty and enthusiasm are fully reflected when he is working for stand sentry.
Character Question 4: How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger these changes?
White Fang started with the mother in the wild, but they came to the Indian settlement because of the lack of food. Then White Fang was forced to suppress the nature and become obedient. (At this time, White Fang became fearful of humanity.) Under the long-term supervision of the Indians, he began to become ferocious and full of hatred against animals and people. The control of the new master (Smith) further deepens his dislike of humanity. Knowing that the turning point occurred, he met Scott. Under Scott’s gentle treatment, White Fang began to lay down his prejudice. (From under to under, then become equal).
Conflict – Required Question 5: What is the most important conflict in this novel? Explain why.
The most important conflict in this novel is White Fang’s innermost changes to humans. The reason is that his memory of human beings from childhood is difficult and abusive, and as his growth, these sufferings gradually increase. Human control forced him to control his own nature, so when he met Scott, he became suspicious. (His trust for the human is like the story called “the wolf is coming”.) We know that people have symptoms of PTSD, and animals are no exception. The reason why the author described Scott as the god of White Fang is not only because of the change of White Fang’s inner conflict, but also because his behavior is like Jesus can generally make others redeemed.
Conflict Question 6: Have you ever experienced a similar type of conflict? Explain.
I was once troubled by such a similar problem. “If one day you become a person you once hated, would you forgive yourself?” In the novel, White Fang was initially extremely disgusted and controlled. He hates being inhibited from doing things that he does not want to do. However, Scott’s appearance completely changed him. He is willing to control his wildness and is completely submissive to Scott. In my opinion, this may be a kind of growth, but the way it was in the beginning was extreme.
Theme – Required Question 7: Write a theme statement for your novel; MUST include title of novel and complete name of author.
In the novel White Fang by Jack London , the theme is that the relationship between self-control and persecution of others.
Theme Question 8: Based on the theme of the novel, evaluate the author’s worldview. Is it compatible with a Christian worldview? Why or why not?
I think the author is a person who advocates free thinking and autonomous behavior. He used the story of White Fang to tell the different consequences of the two different ways of doing the same thing. (The Indian persecution strengthens the disgust and fear in White Fang’s heart, and Scott’s gentle treatment makes him not mind the past.) This is a very Christian worldview because he shows us the best way to get along with God (in the story, the relationship between White Fang and people): Be With GOD.
The Concept of Nature and the Purpose of a Man
“It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted, Northland Wild.” In this quote, American author Jack London establishes the key theme of his novel White Fang. Throughout this work, London seeks to portray his conception of nature, which is dark, ominous, and all-powerful. In order to convey this belief, he utilizes unique personification and symbolism, a wild setting, and particular vocabulary. Moreover, London reveals his belief that human life is infinitesimal when compared to the all-encompassing power of nature.
The very first paragraph of White Fang contains intense imagery, signifying its importance in conveying the theme of White Fang. Silence and desolation are key images in the opening paragraph. “A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness.”
It is crucial to analyze London’s portrayal of nature, as it contrasts with alternate depictions of nature in literature. For example, modernist poet Katherine Mansfield gives an entirely different depiction of nature in her poem, A Very Early Spring. She writes, “So many white clouds–and the blue of the sky is cold. Now the sun walks in the forest, He touches the bows and stems with his golden fingers… A wind dances over the fields. Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter.” Mansfield depicts nature as active and full of life. London’s portrayal however,utilizes imagery of stillness and silence to evoke the image of nature as lifeless and ominous. “On every side of them was silence, pressing upon them with a tangible presence.” London personifies silence as a force encroaching on the main characters which evokes an eerie sense of stillness.
In addition to the imagery associated with nature, the symbolism of the “narrow oblong box” is crucial to understanding the story. This box first appears as a combination table and seat for the main characters, Bill and Henry. Only later does the reader discover that this box is in fact a coffin, containing the body of Bill and Henry’s friend, Lord Alfred. This coffin symbolizes the constant struggle between nature and man and its eventual outcome. “On the sled, in the box, lays a third man whose toil was over—a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again.” Not only does the narrow oblong box serve as a means of exposing Lord Alfred’s fate; it also serves as a device for foreshadowing, because as Bill suffers the same fate later in the novel.
Through Lord Alfred’s demise and the narrow oblong box, London imbues the novel with symbols of death and nature’s power over man. He writes, “It is not the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offense to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement.” Through the symbol of the oblong box, London emphasizes the stillness of nature and the effect it has on anything that threatens the status quo.
Although imagery and symbolism are crucial in establishing the themes in White Fang, the setting is also important to London’s portrayal. The setting acts as a vehicle which allows the reader to fully access the imagery and themes of the story.
London utilizes setting to establish Bill and Henry’s grueling situation. While he could have selected any uncivilized location, London specifically picked the Alaskan wild. White Fang was written in 1906, three years prior to the successful discovery of the North Pole. London’s readers would have seen the the entire Arctic region as mysterious and untamed, therefore allowing his imagery to have deeper impact and re-inforcing his underlying theme. London would not have achieved this same effect if he had selected a different setting other than the “savage, frozen-hearted, Northland Wild.”
Finally, London carefully crafts his word choice to invoke the themes of the novel. One particular word that London uses is “toil”. In fact, this word appears over five times throughout the first chapter of White Fang. The reader can extract tone and meaning from London’s use of toil. First, toil could refer to the physical toil that Bill and Henry have experienced from their plight in the Alaskan wilderness. Tired, hungry, and freezing, Bill and Henry have reached their breaking point. However, it is more likely that toil refers to the constant battle between man and nature that underscores the story. London believed in the futility of life and felt that man existed only to toil. Only upon death would this toil conclude. This is evident in the line, “On the sled, in the box, lays a third man whose toil was over.” Therefore, the reader can deduce that London’s choice of the word toil was intentional in conveying his viewpoint on life.
Moreover, White Fang reveals Jack London’s philosophy on both nature and the purpose of man. Throughout the novel, he repeatedly invokes themes of the futility of life, stillness, and the immense power of nature over man. Through his masterful use of literary techniques, London conveys his message to readers. As such, it is nearly impossible for the reader to ignore the author’s point of view, regardless of his or her own opinion.
Behavioral Changes in “White Fang”
Jack London is known for using naturalism and brutality as themes in his novels; however, it is also common for him to use philosophical ideas to advance his plots. One example that effectively shows this is London’s White Fang, which is significantly informed by Charles Darwin’s theories of survival and competition. More specifically, this work centers on the study of Social Darwinism, which is a belief that “the process of natural selection acting on variations in the population would result in the survival of the best competitors and in continuing improvement in the population” (“Social Darwinism” 1). This theory is articulated within the changes in White Fang’s behavior in different environments. White Fang shows how one’s behavior adapts through external influences and demonstrates the underlying presence of Social Darwinism.
The human characters have a significant impact on White Fang, prompting major changes in his behavior. One of these alterations occurs when he is forced into an unfamiliar and harsh environment. He must learn to survive with his new master, Beauty Smith, who is a described as “a sadistic master who beats White Fang and starves him to make him fight harder” (Reesman 3). The neglect and abuse from Smith has an important impact on White Fang, since now he must learn new tactics for survival. Through this struggle, he learns to behave like a vicious beast in order to survive and protect himself from being killed. Eventually, this leads him to fight and often kill any dog that crosses his path. Virginia Crane explains how White Fang gets the name “The Fighting Wolf” by being “abused and exploited so harshly that he develops into a ferocious killer” (Crane 3). With Smith in control, White Fang learns and replicates Smith’s immoral and malicious traits. Smith treats him with such cruelty that he must adapt to the harsh environment in order to not be killed. London states that because White Fang is beaten and chained up for a long period of time, “[White Fang] now became the enemy of all things, and more ferocious than ever. To such an extent was he tormented, that he hated blindly and without the faintest spark of reason” (London 220). White Fang begins to manifest the hate that he receives from Smith, which is another reason he begins to behave as “The Fighting Wolf”. He now believes that violence is the only way to live, since he has never before been treated with love.
Another major change in White Fang occurs when Weedon Scott rescues him during a dangerous dog fight. From that moment on, White Fang’s life is completely different. Opposing the qualities of Beauty Smith, “Scott represents a greater good because he chooses to make White Fang his responsibility, and he chooses knowing that he is taking on a killer” (Norvell 2). Being treated with the care and love that Scott provides is new to White Fang, so he must relearn how to behave and survive for life in this environment. Although this is a challenge for both of them, Scott doesn’t give up while training White Fang and helping him to earn a new reputation. White Fang’s change in behavior is tested and proven when he resists his natural instinct to kill other dogs when they begin to pick on him. Norvell explains that “White Fang has learned not to attack dogs, and so he soaks up their abuse for Scott’s sake” (Norvell 2). Previously, White Fang only knew how to survive through fighting and killing to rule out competition. Scott treats White Fang with love and patience, so White Fang adapts to this behavior and changes his way of life. Instead of resorting to violence, White Fang ignores the other dogs and behaves calmly, showing how Scott is an overall good influence on White Fang. Virginia Crane agrees, stating that “allegiance and affection for a man springs from this good treatment, and White Fang becomes ‘The Blessed Wolf’” (Crane 3). Because of Weedon Scott’s good nature, White Fang finally learns to love and care. This marks the end of his days as The Fighting Wolf, and the beginning of his new reputation as The Blessed Wolf.
White Fang’s behavior changes to ensure survival in each environment, suggesting the idea of Social Darwinism. London includes this particular philosophical idea because of White Fang’s two opposing behaviors and how his ability to easily adapt and survive proves that he is one of the stronger dogs in the idea of survival of the fittest. The use of Smith and Scott “enables Jack London to again examine behavioral adaptation via principles of Darwinian evolution. He shows how chance, nature, and external influences function as forces that shape all animals’ evolution” (Vermaas “White Fang” 1). Vermaas suggests that London’s use of White Fang’s adaptations and behaviors further demonstrates the idea of Social Darwinism. The external influences are Smith and Scott, who both play important roles in White Fang’s behavior. During these times in White Fang’s life, “they were his environment, these men, and they were molding the clay of him into a more ferocious thing than had been intended by Nature. Nevertheless, Nature had given him plasticity. Where many another animal would have died or had its spirit broken, he adjusted himself and lived, and at no expense of the spirit” (London 222). London describes how White Fang is strong and portrays Social Darwinism due to how he easily adapts to environments that would cause weaker animals to die off.
During White Fang’s time with Smith, White Fang is shaped into a brutal wolf due to the poor treatment he receives. White Fang quickly adjusts and lives this new life of violence, which would typically be a struggle for other dogs. Crane argues this point by reminding us how “repeatedly, [White Fang] is brought to the edge of extinction, only to recover by adapting to the laws that govern his own nature and the laws that structure his new environments” (Crane 4). Each environment has a different set of laws. London again articulates this idea through the laws of the Wild, and how “White Fang knew the law well: to oppress the weak and obey the strong” (London 187). By learning these new laws, he is able to modify his actions accordingly. Matthew Bruccoli believes that the “domestication of the wolf is complete when White Fang sires a litter of pups, thus proving that adaptability is the key to survival” (Bruccoli 1). The internal conflict and major change within White Fang is complete at the end of the novel when White Fang becomes accustomed to the domesticated lifestyle. He begins to act more like a house dog, rather than a wolf in the wild fighting to survive. White Fang shows how the theory of Social Darwinism will have an effect on one’s behavior, since it will cause one to adapt to changes in environment while fighting for survival.
Through the influences of Scott and Smith and the ideas of Social Darwinism, White Fang provides evidence for one’s behavioral adaptations. This idea is demonstrated within White Fang’s adjustments to survive within the different environments. The ideas of Social Darwinism further explain White Fang’s major transformation in behavior through the different needs of survival. One will adapt to different influences and environmental surroundings over time in order to live and prosper.
Bruccoli, Matthew. “White Fang.” Student’s Encyclopedia of American Literary Characters (2009): n. pag. Bloom’s Literature. Web. 3 Dec 2015.
Crane, Virginia. “White Fang.” Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement (1997): 1-2. Literary Reference Center. Web. 10 Nov 2015.
London, Jack. White Fang. New York: Macmillan Company, 2003. Print
Norvell, Candyce. “Critical Essay on White Fang.” Novels for Students 19 (2004): n. pag. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 Nov 2015.
Reesman, Jeanne Campbell. “White Fang.” Critical Companion to Jack London: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion (2011): n. pag. Bloom’s Literature. Web. 3 Dec 2015.
“Social Darwinism.” Encyclopedia Britannica (18 March 2016): n. pag. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 22 March 2016.
Vermaas, Lori. “White Fang.” Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature (2011): n. pag. Bloom’s Literature. Web. 12 Nov 2015
The Fall into Futility: The Philosophy of Jack London Exposed in White Fang
“It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted, Northland Wild.” In this quote, American author Jack London establishes the key theme of his novel White Fang. Throughout this work, London seeks to portray his conception of nature, which is dark, ominous, and all-powerful. In order to convey this belief, he utilizes unique personification and symbolism, a wild setting, and particular vocabulary. Moreover, London reveals his belief that human life is infinitesimal when compared to the all-encompassing power of nature.The very first paragraph of White Fang contains intense imagery, signifying its importance in conveying the theme of White Fang. Silence and desolation are key images in the opening paragraph. “A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness.” It is crucial to analyze London’s portrayal of nature, as it contrasts with alternate depictions of nature in literature. For example, modernist poet Katherine Mansfield gives an entirely different depiction of nature in her poem, A Very Early Spring. She writes, “So many white clouds–and the blue of the sky is cold. Now the sun walks in the forest, He touches the bows and stems with his golden fingers… A wind dances over the fields. Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter.” Mansfield depicts nature as active and full of life. London’s portrayal however,utilizes imagery of stillness and silence to evoke the image of nature as lifeless and ominous. “On every side of them was silence, pressing upon them with a tangible presence.” London personifies silence as a force encroaching on the main characters which evokes an eerie sense of stillness. In addition to the imagery associated with nature, the symbolism of the “narrow oblong box” is crucial to understanding the story. This box first appears as a combination table and seat for the main characters, Bill and Henry. Only later does the reader discover that this box is in fact a coffin, containing the body of Bill and Henry’s friend, Lord Alfred. This coffin symbolizes the constant struggle between nature and man and its eventual outcome. “On the sled, in the box, lays a third man whose toil was over—a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again.” Not only does the narrow oblong box serve as a means of exposing Lord Alfred’s fate; it also serves as a device for foreshadowing, because as Bill suffers the same fate later in the novel. Through Lord Alfred’s demise and the narrow oblong box, London imbues the novel with symbols of death and nature’s power over man. He writes, “It is not the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offense to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement.” Through the symbol of the oblong box, London emphasizes the stillness of nature and the effect it has on anything that threatens the status quo. Although imagery and symbolism are crucial in establishing the themes in White Fang, the setting is also important to London’s portrayal. The setting acts as a vehicle which allows the reader to fully access the imagery and themes of the story. London utilizes setting to establish Bill and Henry’s grueling situation. While he could have selected any uncivilized location, London specifically picked the Alaskan wild. White Fang was written in 1906, three years prior to the successful discovery of the North Pole. London’s readers would have seen the the entire Arctic region as mysterious and untamed, therefore allowing his imagery to have deeper impact and re-inforcing his underlying theme. London would not have achieved this same effect if he had selected a different setting other than the “savage, frozen-hearted, Northland Wild.” Finally, London carefully crafts his word choice to invoke the themes of the novel. One particular word that London uses is “toil”. In fact, this word appears over five times throughout the first chapter of White Fang. The reader can extract tone and meaning from London’s use of toil. First, toil could refer to the physical toil that Bill and Henry have experienced from their plight in the Alaskan wilderness. Tired, hungry, and freezing, Bill and Henry have reached their breaking point. However, it is more likely that toil refers to the constant battle between man and nature that underscores the story. London believed in the futility of life and felt that man existed only to toil. Only upon death would this toil conclude. This is evident in the line, “On the sled, in the box, lays a third man whose toil was over.” Therefore, the reader can deduce that London’s choice of the word toil was intentional in conveying his viewpoint on life.Moreover, White Fang reveals Jack London’s philosophy on both nature and the purpose of man. Throughout the novel, he repeatedly invokes themes of the futility of life, stillness, and the immense power of nature over man. Through his masterful use of literary techniques, London conveys his message to readers. As such, it is nearly impossible for the reader to ignore the author’s point of view, regardless of his or her own opinion.