Never Cry Wolf Analysis
by Farley Mowat

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Never Cry Wolf is set in the late 1940s in the middle of Keewatin, the easternmost district of Canada's vast Northwest Territories. When Mowat begins his assignment to study wolves, he is flown to the town of Churchill, on Hudson Bay's western coast. From there, Mowat flies some three hundred miles northwest of Churchill to the place he comes to call Wolf House Bay, where he begins his research. Early on, he establishes a base camp and discovers a family of wolves whose den is set in an esker, a glacial ridge formed by the action of water. He moves his equipment to a site near the den and begins his observations of wolf behavior. When summer comes and the wolves move to their summer den in a nearby ravine, Mowat moves with them in order to continue his studies. Finally, when the caribou make their seasonal migration, Mowat travels across the tundra plains to assess the manner in which wolves hunt caribou and the extent to which their predation has reduced the caribou herd. Never Cry Wolf is set in the vastness of Canada's northern territories and, at the same time, in the tiny household of one wolf family.

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Because Mowat wishes to impart an important message in Never Cry Wolf, he presents his true story in a simple and direct manner. Despite its simplicity, the carefully crafted book displays Mowat's eye for details that reveal character.

Never Cry Wolf is structured as a tale of initiation, a story in which a young person grows up and learns valuable lessons. Mowat learns how to live in the wild and in the process finds, often through humorous mishaps, that much he has been told by the government authorities is false. Mowat also uses humor to teach lessons about outdoor survival and wolf behavior. Myths prove educational as well and provide a crosscultural perspective. Ootek's tale of the creation of the caribou and the wolf illustrates the different ways that the wolf is perceived in Eskimo and Western cultures. The contrasts between the wolf's role in these two cultures underscore the Western misunderstanding of the wolf. Finally, Mowat's comparisons of wolf and human societies enhance the literary effectiveness of this story.

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Mowat advances a respect for life and an environmental ethic in Never Cry Wolf. Criticizing those members of society who, like the Ottawa bureaucrats, remain smug in their ignorance and callous to the repercussions of their decisions upon the animal world, Mowat demands that proper respect be paid to nature. He points out that the natural systems and interrelationships that have developed in the wild may soon be upset by humans, who tend to interfere before understanding the complete picture. The title Never Cry Wolf warns society to stop using the wolf as a scapegoat for human problems. Mowat urges a change in attitudes about wolves and, thereby, in policies that currently threaten the wolf with extinction.

Some readers and parents may be concerned about Mowat's use of alcohol. Wolf Juice, a combination of Moose Brand Beer and 100 percent grain alcohol intended to preserve specimens for research, is used liberally by Mowat in Never Cry Wolf. The sensitive and compassionate position Mowat takes on the environment far outweighs the indiscretion Wolf Juice represents in the book, but those concerned may want to caution younger readers about alcohol abuse.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

King, James. Farley: The Life of Farley Mowat. South Royalton, Vt.: Steerforth Press, 2002.

Lucas, Alec. Farley Mowat . Toronto: McClelland &...

(The entire section is 854 words.)