Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 541
London did not have the benefit of twentieth century studies of wolf behavior in nature and of instances in which a wolf has bonded with a human. Instead, he relied on his own imagination and the highly inaccurate conjectures of nineteenth century naturalists. Therefore, the reader can accept only the characters of White Fang and the other wolves on the allegorical level. The human characters function more as types than individuals, especially the three masters of White Fang. His character is the only one that London allows to grow.
White Fang is born in the wild. The best part of the book occurs when he ventures out of the cave and into the wild. White Fang grows up hating other dogs and wolves and regards all creatures in terms of whether they are his prey or he is their prey. Eventually, his last master redeems White Fang by love and domesticates him.
Kiche was born in captivity and escaped into the wild but ultimately returns to her human masters. The high point of her life occurs when the three male wolves fight to the death to determine who will mate with her. Eventually, Kiche becomes indifferent to White Fang, her son, and raises another litter of cubs.
One-Eye got his name because he lost his right eye in a battle years before the events described in the novel. He is intelligent, brave, and dedicated; most important, One-Eye is a survivor. He dies only because he is trying to feed his family.
Cherokee is a highly developed product of civilization. He is a dog bred for one function only, killing other dogs. Only Weedon Scott’s intervention stops him from killing White Fang. This serves to demonstrate the ultimate superiority of civilization over nature.
Gray Beaver represents humanity that lives in primitive civilization. He demonstrates his superiority over White Fang by training him to obey humans. Unfortunately, when he encounters an allegedly higher civilization, he degenerates into a drunkard. London’s racism, very common among his contemporaries, portrays this as the natural order of things rather than as the corruption of an innocent. The power of the white man, even the worst kind such as Beauty Smith, overwhelms Gray Beaver.
Beauty Smith is a cowardly sadist who takes pleasure in beating White Fang and in watching White Fang kill other dogs. His status in society before acquiring White Fang is the lowly position of cook and dishwasher. He uses White Fang to advance his position in society by appealing to the baser emotions of other men.
Weedon Scott is a civilized person of intelligence and good character. The son of a judge, he is a member of the upper middle class. The dogfight disgusts him, so he takes White Fang away from Smith and treats the wolf with kindness. London clearly implies that when White Fang accepts him as his master, he is moving up in the hierarchy of human beings.
Bill and Henry are almost caricatures. The reader has to question whether they would have survived for long in the wilderness, considering thier poor judgment in taking so few arms and so little ammunition on their trek. Of course, Bill does die as a result of his own stupidity and impulsiveness.
Themes and Characters
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357
White Fang, part wolf and part husky, inherits capacities for primitive and for civilized life; but his character is shaped by the environment in which he lives. Born in the wild, White Fang becomes a cunning predator, well-adapted to a world of eat or be eaten. But not until he is captured and sold to the brutal Beauty Smith does White Fang become cruel and hateful. White Fang adapts to the spitefulness of his new master by turning vicious. Under Smith's fiendish goading, White Fang becomes "a more ferocious thing than had been intended by Nature." Likewise, Beauty Smith and Jim Hall, the villainous convict whom White Fang eventually kills, have been molded into monstrosities by their environments.
The tooth of every dog was against him, the hand of every man.
White Fang emphasizes the triumph of civilized over primitive life, a theme that London called the "complete antithesis" of The Call of the Wild. Unlike Buck in The Call of the Wild, who becomes increasingly more primitive, White Fang is taken from the wild and gradually domesticated.
Throughout White Fang, the call of civilization, symbolized by fire and human companionship, sounds much more strongly than The Call of the Wild. White Fang regards the human firemakers as "gods." Initially, White Fang submits to the humans because of their superior strength. He is beaten repeatedly, and although he resists, he finds himself growing increasingly dependent upon fires, provisions, and human protection. From humans he learns a new social law—to oppress the weak and obey the strong. He obeys this rule and oppresses the weaker dogs.
Later, after White Fang is rescued from the brutality of Beauty Smith by Weedon Scott, a new element is introduced into the relationship between man and beast—love. This theme appears also in The Call of the Wild, developed through the bond of love and loyalty between Buck and John Thornton. Love does not come readily to White Fang—he must be taught it diligently by Weedon Scott. But love, in the end, proves to be the most powerful of social forces, transforming White Fang into a trusting and loyal companion.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1328
Bill, along with Henry, appears in Part One of the novel. Bill and Henry are taking the body of Lord Alfred to Fort McGurry. When the two men are threatened by hungry wolves that kill some of their sled dogs, Bill becomes increasingly anxious and convinced that the wolves will eventually kill them. When the wolves lure one of the dogs away during the daytime, Bill rashly follows with the gun to try to save the dog even though it is extremely dangerous and almost certainly futile. The wolves kill both the dog and Bill.
Collie is a sheepdog who lives at Weedon Scott’s estate in California. When White Fang first arrives there, she badgers him mercilessly, following her instinctual enmity against wolves. White Fang does not harm her, even when she attacks him, partly because he understands that Scott values her and partly because it is against his nature as a wolf to harm a female of his own kind (or, in this case, of a closely related kind).
After time has passed, though, Collie leads White Fang into the woods to mate with her. In the novel’s last scene, when White Fang has finally recovered from his gunshot wounds enough to hobble outside, he sees Collie with their puppies and allows the puppies to clamber over him as he rests.
Dick is a deerhound and a pet of the Scott family. When White Fang first arrives at the Scott estate, Dick chases him, which White Fang, because of his experiences, interprets as a deadly attack. The only thing that prevents White Fang from killing Dick is Collie’s intervention.
Jim Hall is a murderer who was convicted in Judge Scott’s court and who has vowed to take revenge on the old judge. When Hall escapes from prison, he goes to the Scotts’ estate to take his revenge but is attacked and killed by White Fang. However, Hall manages to shoot White Fang several times, wounding him gravely.
Henry is Bill’s companion on the trip to Fort McGurry with Lord Alfred’s body. While Bill becomes unhinged by the threatening wolves, Henry remains calm and manages to survive until unexpected help arrives.
Kiche is called the She-Wolf in the first part of the novel, when she is living in the wild with other wolves. Readers learn her name later when she rejoins the Indians with whom she had previously lived.
In Part One, Kiche is with the wolf pack that threatens Henry and Bill. She is somewhat tame and enters the camp to try to get food when Bill feeds the dogs. It is also Kiche who lures the dogs away from the camp at night so that the other wolves can kill and eat them.
After the pack is driven away from Henry and finally finds food, Kiche mates with an old wolf named One-Eye. All of her cubs except one die in a famine, and the one survivor is a gray male who will become known as White Fang. One day Kiche hears White Fang’s cries and runs to rescue him, and she and the Indian Gray Beaver recognize each other. Kiche allows Gray Beaver to pet her and to tie her up until she has again become tame enough to stay with the Indians willingly.
Kiche is the offspring of a dog and a wolf, a mating arranged by Gray Beaver’s now-dead brother, and therefore White Fang is one-quarter dog.
Kloo-Kooch is Gray Beaver’s wife. She provides perhaps the only moment of affection that White Fang experiences among the Indians, when White Fang returns to the Indians after a famine and receives a warm welcome from her.
Lip-Lip is a puppy who lives with the Indians and who was born in the same year as White Fang. He is a bully and constantly picks fights with White Fang, which is the first step in White Fang’s becoming a mean and solitary animal.
Matt is Weedon Scott’s musher, who helps Scott rescue White Fang from the bulldog and then rehabilitate him. It is Matt who recognizes that White Fang is part dog and has been trained to pull a sled.
Mit-sah is Gray Beaver’s son. When White Fang is still a puppy, he helps pull Mit-sah’s childsize sled when the family goes on a trip.
One-Eye is an old but smart male wolf who wins the right to mate with Kiche by killing his two rivals. White Fang is the sole surviving cub from this litter.
Salmon Tongue is one of the Indians who is with Gray Beaver when they discover White Fang and Kiche.
Alice is Weedon’s wife. When she hears that Jim Hall has escaped from prison, she begins to let White Fang into the house each night after the rest of the family has gone to bed. This precaution saves the family’s lives.
Beth is one of Weedon’s two sisters, who lives at the estate with the rest of the extended family. She lovingly helps care for White Fang after he saves the family from Jim Hall.
Judge Scott is Weedon’s father, a retired judge who lives at the estate with the rest of the extended family. He is hesitant to trust White Fang but willing to admit that he was wrong when White Fang proves himself. When White Fang saves the family from Jim Hall, the judge is so grateful that he calls the best doctors, rather than veterinarians, to care for White Fang.
Mary is one of Weedon’s two sisters, who lives at the estate with the rest of the extended family. She lovingly helps care for White Fang after he saves the family from Jim Hall.
Weedon Scott’s six-year-old daughter. White Fang understands how precious the children are to his master, and he learns to enjoy their petting.
Weedon Scott is a mining expert from California who comes to the Yukon for a short time. He comes upon the scene of the dogfight at which White Fang is about to be killed by a bulldog and is at the same time being brutally kicked by Beauty Smith. After rescuing White Fang, Scott asks his musher, Matt, how much an animal in White Fang’s condition is worth. He then pays Beauty Smith the money and takes White Fang against Smith’s wishes.
Scott rehabilitates White Fang through consistent gentleness, kindness, and affection, even though White Fang bites him the first time he has an op- portunity. When he must correct White Fang, he does so with words, not blows, except on one or two occasions when the situation is extremely serious. White Fang becomes so attached to Scott that he crashes through a window to avoid being left behind when Scott returns to California. Scott relents and takes White Fang home with him, and he is rewarded when White Fang saves the family from a murderer. Weedon Scott Jr.
Weedon is the elder Scott’s four-year-old son.
The cook at Fort Yukon, Beauty Smith is an ugly, cruel man. He goes to great lengths to persuade Gray Beaver to sell White Fang to him and then abuses White Fang to make him as fierce as possible. Beauty’s goal is to win money by entering White Fang in dogfights, which he continues to do until Weedon Scott intervenes.
Three Eagles is one of the Indians who is with Gray Beaver when they discover White Fang and Kiche. A short time later, Gray Beaver gives Kiche to Three Eagles, who takes her with him on a long trip.
Weedon Scott’s Mother
Her name is not mentioned, but she lives with the rest of the extended family at the estate.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 274
As in The Call of the Wild (1903), most of White Fang is told from the point of view of the canine protagonist. The reader is clearly meant to sympathize and identify with White Fang's struggle to survive and his difficult education to the ways of civilization. But unlike Buck, the protagonist of The Call of the Wild, who experiences apotheosis as the mythic Ghost Dog of the North, White Fang becomes "The Blessed Wolf," a heroic defender of his master's life and property. His integration and domestication are portrayed in the final scene of the novel as he lies in the sun playing with his mate's puppies.
As in The Call of the Wild, the human characters exemplify different environmental influences that shape White Fang. Gray Beaver is the Indian who first convinces White Fang to live with humans. The physically and morally grotesque Beauty Smith turns White Fang into "the Fighting Wolf," making money by pitting him against other dogs. White Fang is saved by the mining engineer Weedon Scott, who feels that "the ill done White Fang was a debt incurred by man," and, therefore, teaches White Fang love as a "matter of principle and conscience."
However, Jim Hall, the escaped convict who is killed by White Fang in the novel's climactic confrontation, stands as a counterpoint to White Fang. "Railroaded" by a "police conspiracy" unknown to Judge Scott, Hall has been shaped by harsh prison treatment into a "man and a monstrosity, as fearful a thing of fear as ever gibbered in the visions of a maddened brain." His is a reminder that environmental influences can destroy as well as build.