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One reason for the popularity of this novel, especially among young readers, is its sympathetic portrayal of the life of a wild animal. Details of the wolf’s mating behavior, gestation period, physical development, hunting behavior, adaptation skills, and life span constitute a capsule education. Depictions of the dangers of sledding through Arctic winters are both realistic and exciting.

The animal’s years of gradual and painful integration into human society are also employed as a vehicle to expound some of Jack London’s personal socialist convictions. His themes include the relationships of heredity and environment to individual development; the roles of violence, property, and love in both animal and human experience; and the pleasures and constraints of civilization. The dog’s view of humankind allows London to objectify humanity’s imperialism over its physical realm and the boundless inhumanities to human beings and other creatures. White Fang’s individual struggle for survival, demanding all of his physical and intellectual resources, operates as a metaphor for each human’s battle to realize his or her own nature while accommodating accidents of circumstance and social and natural laws. The novel’s conclusion, with White Fang “the Blessed Wolf” happily drowsing in the sun with his offspring, suggests that love offers redemption and that, whatever its constraints, civilization offers contentment.

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Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)