Out in the Wild, in the bone-numbing North, two men are mushing to McGurry. Their dogs are running along forward and they have a box lashed to the sled. In the box is the body of Lord Alfred, a man from the outside who froze to death. Such is the way of the North. The chill threatens to stop movement, to pull all life to a halt. But Bill and Henry push on, urging the dogs forward through the snow. Wolves howl behind them.
When they set up for camp, Bill notices that the dogs are a bit wilder than usual. Henry shrugs, but Bill tells him that he thinks that when he fed them there was a wolf among their dogs--he gave out an extra fish. The wolves move closer, their howls in the background of Henry and Bill's conversation, and Bill becomes nervous. He only has three cartridges left in his rifle. Before they go to sleep, Bill sees another dog with their own. In the morning, Bill notices that one of their dogs, Fatty, is missing. Fatty was eaten by the wolves.
They eat breakfast and set out again. That evening, one of the wolves tries to steal salmon from Bill, and he tells Henry that the wolf looked just like a dog. The next morning, Frog, the strongest of their dogs, is gone. They harness the remaining four dogs to the sled and continue.
That night, they tie the dogs using leather and sticks to prevent them from chewing through the ropes. Bill and Henry sit by the fire and while they watch, the doglike wolf glides close to One Ear, one of their dogs, trying to lure him away. Bill says that he will shoot her when he can get a sure shot.
The next morning, Spanker is gone, chewed loose by another dog. A hundred yards from their campsite they find the stick that he was tied with--the leather chewed off of both ends. The wolves are in the middle of a famine and are desperate for food.
That evening, the doglike wolf comes near the campsite, and they notice that it has a reddish fur and looks for everything like a dog, albeit a very hungry dog who is eyeing them as a meal. Bill lifts his gun up to his shoulder, but the wolf knows what it is and leaps away before he can take a shot. They camp early, and Bill says that the wolves are land-sharks waiting to die.
The first part of White Fang is like a short story separate from the rest of the book. Bill and Henry exist outside the frame of the story, linked only by the encounters with the she-wolf. The purpose of this short story is to give an introduction to the laws of the Wild, which will be a major theme revisited throughout the book.
The first few paragraphs give a brief description of the land, showing all the trees stripped of leaves and lifeless, frozen, still. But then the life contrasts--the breath of the men causes ice crystals to form, their movement forward contrasts with the stillness of the snow. London goes so far as to explicitly state this: the contrast between the cold, where everything is silent, and the warmth and movement of the bodies. The oblong box, the coffin, links the two worlds--one of the alive is now still and dead. When the men look at each other, gazing across the box, they find it hard to speak-- the silence and stillness penetrates them.
These first two chapters also build tension for the rest of this section. The conversation between Bill and Henry acts to build contrast between the two of them: Henry as the logical, stable man, Bill as the flighty, worried man, an example of what happens to people when they succumb to the worries of the wild. The three dogs disappearing also causes tension, especially because of the added security with each dog. We do not learn of the famished wolves at first. Their presence is built up bit by bit with each dog- disappearance, and then driven home when Bill calls them land-sharks: we know that they will try to eat Bill and Henry.
Stylistically, London uses simple sentences and clear language. Most of his sentences are active; these first two chapters, except for a bit of description, are all action. This places us firmly in the land that he is creating, as does his realistic speech--Bill uses words like "ain't" and "reckon," which give a flavor of the speech patterns, strengthening the "real-life" feel of the story.
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