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White Fang

Jack London

Part Two, Chapters 3-5

Part Two, Chapters 1-2

Part Three, Chapters 1-3

Summary

One of the pups is stronger than the others, a little gray cub. He yearns for the light, and learns to find his mother's nose and paw and tongue. He drinks lots of milk and bits of half-digested food that his mother regurgitates for him. He is the fiercest of the litter, with a little rasping growl.

The pup looks throughout the cave and decides that in the front of the cave there is a wall of light. He notices that his father can pass in and out of the wall (which he has discovered he cannot do with the other walls of the cave after quite a bump on the nose), but doesn't wonder why his father can, and he cannot, he is simply content with what happens.

There are famines, and One Eye has trouble finding food. One by one, his brothers and sisters die, until only he is left. Soon, only he and his mother are left, for One Eye gets in a fight with the lynx and is killed.

When his mother starts to leave the cub in the cave while she goes and hunts, he at first does not approach the entrance because he is afraid. He knows he must be obedient to his mother, and also fears the unknown. However, as he grows older, the urge to explore becomes stronger and stronger, and he finally leaves the cave and tumbles down a little slope, scared. He kills a ptarmigan chick and is attacked by the mother, nearly misses being swooped up by a hawk, and falls in a stream. Finally he climbs out, only to be attacked by a weasel and just barely in time, is rescued by his mother. She kills the weasel, and they eat it.

The cub ventures out again after two days, determined to learn more about the world, perhaps to get a squirrel or have another go at the ptarmigan. He learns to slink, he learns to stalk. When a famine comes again, he hunts alongside his mother. He even stands out in the open, daring the hawk to come down so he can attack it. The famine is broken when his mother brings home a lynx kitten. The cub feasts.

The lynx, after discovering that her kits have been eaten, comes to the lair to attack the wolves. The cub watches while his mother and the lynx fight, and he leaps up and digs his teeth into the lynx a few times. Finally, the two wolves bring the lynx down. They are quite torn by the cat's claws, and stay in the lair and eat the lynx as they heal. The cub realizes the law of nature: EAT OR BE EATEN.

Commentary

White Fang's initial character is revealed to us in this section. He is fierce, yet playful. He has the natural instinct of fear, yet is also brave. He is loving to his mother, and has promise to be a great wolf. This is White Fang in the wild, and this section is very important to pay attention to because it gives us the one glimpse into the possible "other life" for White Fang. Much of the joy and playfulness that he seems to have in this section does not return until the end of the book--the comparisons between his mother and Weedon Scott are many. This is the one section before White Fang meets man, and his character remains pure and wild.

London chooses to show us the development of the pup from outside the pup, from a scientific perspective. He compares the puppies to plants, and shows how even without consciousness, they are drawn toward the light. In the same way, London describes how White Fang learns what "hurt" is--he first recoils from it automatically, but soon it is because he knows that it is "hurt." In the same way, London shows us the pup's exploration of the outside--he thinks that he could walk on water, but then learns that it moves and is wet, and learns that is a stream. His descriptions show us the world as a wolf-pup. We understand what London means by the "wall of light," but London's description of it opens us to the perception of the pup. We know what it means to hurt, but London shows us how the process of learning happens in a wolf's mind.

But even while using these human descriptions of the wolf-world, London is careful to show some of the differences between their world and ours. He points out that the pup never wondered why it was that One Eye could go through the wall when he could not. Thus, even with the explanation of why the puppy acted a certain way, London is removing us from the dog-world, showing us the why's that the wolves never consider. But it is only with this description that we can have a little bit of a view into that world.

Finally, London starts to show us more of the law of the wild, the law of meat. He writes the law as "Eat or be eaten," but also tells us that the wolves did not think about the law, they simply lived it. This is similar to the description of how the pup learned--we must have it broken down for us in order to understand, but as White Fang lives, he simply lives within this web of laws and learning.

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White Fang

by hannahc143, August 22, 2012

i agree....

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4 out of 12 people found this helpful

mkay

by mrtaj37, April 15, 2013

mkay jack london mkay

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1 out of 2 people found this helpful

White fang

by ckroon, October 22, 2013

tis one big dog

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