Part One, Chapter 3
All of the dogs are there when they wake, and they set off into the snow. The sled overturns and One Ear breaks loose and starts to run toward the wolves. Henry calls him, but he sees the she-wolf up ahead and is lured toward the pack. Too late, he realizes that they are not friendly, but he is cut off by the wolves. Bill takes his rifle and tells Henry that he can't stand it any longer--he will save One Ear. Bill follows after the pack.
Henry hears a shot, then two shots quickly afterward. He hears One Ear's yell of pain, then a wolf-cry, then all is silent. He sits on the sled, knowing what has happened, then rises, and both he and the dogs pull the sled. That night, he makes a generous stash of firewood and a bed close to the fire.
The wolves circle in close, too near for safety. He cannot sleep. He keeps the fire blazing, throwing flaming wood at the wolves when they get too close. In the morning, he hoists the coffin into a tree and continues forward with the lightened sled. The wolves follow close behind, openly in pursuit.
That night, the starving wolves press in closer, less than a few yards away, just waiting for their meal. He keeps falling asleep, dozing to wake up with a start with a wolf hungrily standing over him. He piles wood on the fire. Henry starts to become entranced with his own body, prodding at his fingers and flesh, worried that they will soon be feasting upon it. The reddish she-wolf comes close, and he throws a brand of fire at her.
The next morning he tries to travel, but the wolves close in around him. He leaps back to the fire, fangs just six inches from his thigh. He throws sticks at them, but keeps drifting off, dreaming. Just as a wolf digs into his leg, he awakes and leaps into the fire, throwing sticks out at them. He then surrounds himself with the fire. The wolves settle in a circle around the fire and begin to howl. The fire grows low, but he cannot get more wood. He starts to sleep, and tells the wolves that they can just come and get him.
When he awakes, the wolves are gone. Another group of men had come and chased the wolves away. Henry is saved.
If we consider this part of the book a short story, this section is the climax. The first two chapters provide a slow and steady build-up: the dogs disappear, the men start to feel spooked, the wolves run close after. But it is not until these three chapters that we actually feel the violence happening. The first mini climax is when Henry hears Bill's gunshots, then silence. The story focuses on Henry to keep it in one tight point-of-view, that of a semi-omniscient narrator sensing the world from Henry. This technique helps the story from climaxing too early-- a full description of Bill running to the wolves and feeling them attack him would drive the story forward, and the story would need time to recover before turning back to Henry.
As is, London neatly provides a mini-climax, but keeps it smaller by only focusing on Henry hearing the gunshots. This gives us insight into Henry's thoughts, which is important in order to build a rapport with Henry, who is the main character of the story. There is a small resolution to this climax when Henry sits thinking, which then builds as he travels on, growing when he builds the fire, and reaching a stopping point when he finally gives up, when the men find him. In a way, this robs the reader of a climax-climax, which is another reason to have the death of Bill. Finally, Bill's death shows the reader that although Henry escaped, this is an exception rather than a rule.
One of the most interesting parts of these chapters, thematically, is the interest that Henry shows in his own body. London spends paragraph after paragraph describing the joy that Henry felt at the movement of each finger, the quiver of each breath. The fascination with life, especially life in extreme circumstances is a passion of London's. When Henry watches each finger move slightly, he is doing exactly what London is doing on a larger scale: seeing how his characters will react in the most extreme of situations, be they wolf or human.