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lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like many of Jack London's stories "The White Silence" is set in a very unforgiving winter landscape in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Three people--Mason, his pregnant native wife Ruth, and the Malemute Kid--are traveling across the Northland Trail. They and their sled dogs are attempting to reach civilization with their load of furs. They are short of food, both for themselves and the dogs. One of the dogs, Carmen, is injured; Mason says the dog won't last for three days. When Mason stops his sled for a moment, a pine tree falls on him and crushes his right side. The three know he will die, but Ruth and the Kid try their best to save him. They build a fire, and the Kid goes to hunt but finds nothing. When he returns to Mason and Ruth he finds the starving dogs have attacked the food supply leaving only flour for the remaining two hundred miles of the difficult trip. Mason is delirious, speaking of his youth in Tennessee, but clings to life. After making Ruth start the rest of the journey on one of the sleds, the Kid waits for Mason to die, but finally gives up and cuts the cord he has set that keeps the pine boughs around Mason earthbound."Mason swung into his aerial sepulcher"--the pine boughs have launched him into the air and he will not survive the impact with the ground. The Kid resumes the rest of the journey.

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

London’s story is about two men, Mason and Malmute Kid, and Mason’s wife, Ruth, who are traveling by dog sled on the Yukon’s Long Trail. The story is very simple: it is very cold, and the travelers have barely enough food with them to last their 200-mile trip. The work of mushing down the trail is punishing and filled with unexpected danger, which becomes a reality when Mason is suddenly crushed by a three that collapses under a tremendous weight of snow. With no hope of survival, Mason tells Malamute Kid to care for his wife and to go on without him—rather than letting him die slowly, he asks his friend to shoot him. As a final goodbye, Mason apologizes to Malamute for his brutal handling of the dog, Carmen. After a day, Ruth mushes down the trail, and Malamute stays behind and kills Mason.

The purpose of London’s story, however, is to show the awesome power of “the white silence,” or the great frozen void of the North. Although the humans in the story are the masters of the dogs, both humans and dogs are equally vulnerable to the hostile environment, which does not know any pity or remorse.

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Jack London

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