White Fang Thematic Analysis Essay, Research Paper
White Fang, written by Jack London, is a wonderful adventure novel that vividly depicts the life of a wolf by the name of White Fang. Throughout the course of the novel, White Fang goes through numerous learning experiences as he interacts with humans and other wolves from Alaska around the turn of the century. Jack London uses the events that transpire during White Fang s life to illustrate that only the cunning, intelligent, and strong will be able to survive. The ideas of Darwinism and survival are reinforced by almost every action that takes place in the novel. Man is shown defeating nature through superior intelligence, a wolf cub conquers his puppy-hood, and a young wolf survives despite the hardships placed upon him by man.
As the story begins, Jack London is quick to introduce his theme, but he opens the first three chapters without the main character, White Fang. Two men, named Bill and Henry, are trying to transport the body of a rich man across the frozen tundra of Alaska by sled dog, while a pack of hungry wolves is pursuing them. The wolves gradually kill off the team of dogs, and eventually Bill, in an attempt to survive the long winter. It is ironic in that both the wolves and Henry are struggling against each other for their lives. The wolves need to eat Henry to fight off their maddening hunger, and Henry needs to get rid of the wolves so he can remain living. In the end, Henry proves the victor of the deadly competition by creating a barrier of fire to ward off the wolves until he is rescued. This introductory scenario illustrates that survival will be known only to the intelligent and thus illuminates the theme that presents itself throughout the entire novel.
Almost directly after White Fang s birth, he learns the law of survival. When he stumbles out of the den as a small and clumsy cub, his instincts instruct him to pounces upon every living thing in front of him. However, this behavior leads to an unfortunate run-in with a larger animal that sends him scurrying back to the comfort of the den. Unlike his brothers and sisters who perished at an early age, White Fang learns the guidelines that the laws of nature set forth. He comprehends the eat or be eaten structure of animal society and knows that he must eat and avoid being eaten to guarantee his survival.
This concept of survival is reinforced as White Fang has his first encounter with man. His first instinct is to attack when he sees his half-wolf half-dog mother recaptured by Indians, and he acts on this instinct. The rocks thrown by the Indians, however, remind him that he is a mere pup fighting against gods. Because of his intelligence, White Fang knows when to submit in order to keep his life. All of his actions are predicated on the need to live.
White Fang spends the majority of his early life in retreat, but this quickly changes. He soon grows into a savage and voluminous beast as a direct result of his persecution and mistreatment by human and dog alike. The concept of eat or be eaten has been so perfectly been ingrained into his system, that he loses any speck of compassion or kindness that was ever in him and becomes a terrible killing machine. Whenever he sees he has the advantage over another living thing, he exploits it and drops the creature dead in its tracks.
White Fang s reign of terror, however, only lasts until he encounters a stronger and more formidable foe. Weedon Scott, a mining expert during the gold rush, narrowly saves him from the jaws of a pitbull and teaches him one final lesson. This is that adaptability is as important in survival as any other quality. If one cannot adjust to changing surroundings and circumstances, then they will surely die. All of White Fang s ability to adapt is required when he is taken from the wilds of Alaska to the busy streets of California. It is extremely difficult for him, but he eventually makes the transition from a wild animal to a tame pet. Had he not made this alteration, then he would never have survived in the human world.
Jack London once again made a masterful illustration of every detail about Alaska and the wolves that inhabit it. As always, his superb choice word allowed every moment in the story to be captured with vivid detail. He painted a lucid picture in my mind of the flowing rivers, majestic mountains, and savage animals. I greatly enjoyed reading White Fang and contemplating Jack London s thoughts on life. If I was forced to, the only thing I could pick at in this novel is that he spends some time describing what would have happened if events in the story had happened differently. It seems unnecessary, but does not detract at all from the overall quality of the story or its theme.
Jack London s novels always have a deeper theme, and White Fang is no different. London uses the life of White Fang to represent how natures basic laws, such as the law of survival and to eat or be eaten , can apply to everything. I believe the he allowed the story to end with White Fang finding happiness with a loving master to teach everyone an important lesson. This is that sometimes we can become so distracted by surviving in the business world or elsewhere, that we forget that experiencing happiness should be most important.