White Fang Summary
by Jack London

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Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

White Fang is told in six parts. In the first, two frontiersmen, Bill and Henry, have a running battle with a wolfpack. In the second, the perspective shifts to the wolves, especially One-Eye and Kiche, whose mating produces White Fang. The perspective shifts for the last time to White Fang himself. The last four parts consist first of White Fang living with his mother in the wild and then his life under three very different human masters.

Jack London uses the omniscient third-person narrator throughout the book. In the first part, Henry and Bill are driving a dogsled containing the corpse of an English lord whose body they are taking back to civilization. They discover that they are being followed by a pack of wolves. A she-wolf lures the sled dogs one at a time outside their camp at night, and the wolves kill and eat them. For some reason, Henry and Bill have only one rifle and three bullets. Bill wastes those bullets in a futile pursuit of the wolves, which kill and eat him. Henry stays alive by keeping a fire going. Finally, another dogsled team traveling in the opposite direction rescues him.

The perspective then changes to the she-wolf. She and the pack search for food while at the same time three males show an interest in her. The first is a large gray wolf who is leader of the pack, the second an old wolf without his right eye, and the third a three-year-old male. The gray wolf and the old wolf, called One-Eye, team up to kill the young one, then the old one attacks the gray wolf from behind and kills him. This gives One-Eye the right to mate with the she-wolf. Eventually, the she-wolf finds a cave and gives birth to a litter of cubs.

The she-wolf tends her young while One-Eye hunts for food. However, she has to hunt herself when a lynx kills One-Eye. Only one male in the litter survives. One day while the she-wolf is hunting, the cub leaves the cave. He blunders into a ptarmigan nest and eats all the young. When the mother ptarmigan returns, the cub has his first battle and retreats. Then he discovers that he cannot walk on water and almost drowns in a nearby stream. After reaching a river bank, the cub encounters a weasel, which would have killed him had not the she-wolf returned. After that first day, the cub regularly ventures outside and gains experience in killing and avoiding being killed.

One day, he and his mother encounter a hunting party of Native Americans. One of the Native Americans, Gray Beaver, recognizes the she-wolf and calls her “Kiche.” A wolf-dog hybrid, she had run away a year previously but now was ready to return to domesticity. The cub, named White Fang by his captors, stays with her. Gray Beaver tames White Fang and becomes his master. Gray Beaver sells Kiche to another Native American who takes Kiche away from the village. White Fang is now alone with the humans and the camp dogs.

The next summer, Gray Beaver travels to Fort Yukon to sell furs. He takes White Fang along with him and trades the dog for whiskey. White Fang’s new master is Beauty Smith, so called because of the ugliness of his face. He enjoys beating White Fang and keeps him in a pen. Smith makes money on White Fang by having him fight other dogs to the death. The wolf defeats all comers until Smith matches him against an English bulldog named Cherokee. White Fang finally meets a dog who can best him. The bulldog is about to kill White Fang when a stranger stops the fight.

The stranger is Weedon Scott, a mining engineer from California who finds the dogfights appalling. He takes White Fang away from Smith and treats the wolf with kindness. This is a new experience for White Fang, and he responds positively. When Scott returns home to California, he takes White Fang with him. The wolf establishes a place for himself in Scott’s home, especially when he kills an escaped convict intent on killing Scott’s father. White Fang mates with a sheepdog, and the story ends with the birth of their offspring.

Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jack London intended White Fang to...

(The entire section is 3,919 words.)