Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

White Fang is the tale of a wolf-dog’s fierce struggle for survival against a hostile environment and cruel men. Only late in his life, only after struggle has made him profoundly vicious and an expert killer, does White Fang discover love for a man and the comforts of domesticity. The novel’s twenty-five chapters have five major parts, each with its own locale, theme, rhythm, tone, and climax. The first part, chapters 1 through 3, constitutes a prologue to White Fang’s journey. The tale begins with human experience of the wolf’s natural habitat. Two dogsled drivers delivering a body to Fort McGurry struggle to survive the killing cold and the fierce pursuit of a pack of starving wolves, among them Kiche. Part 2, chapters 4 through 8, depicts the wolf’s experience in nature. Kiche mates, finds a lair, gives birth to White Fang in the spring of 1893, and nurtures him through his first months as a hungry puppy and a novice hunter. In parts 1 and 2, first men and then wolves battle for the food and warmth necessary to survive the cruelties of an Arctic winter. The humans’ horror story in the opening three chapters, although sometimes said to be only loosely attached to the rest of the novel, has an essential similarity to chapters 9 through 25, the horror story of White Fang’s adaptations to an environment dominated by men.

White Fang’s life with humans has three distinct locales. Chapters 9 through 15 are spent in the Yukon Territory traveling with Gray Beaver, a Mackenzie Indian. Then, captive in a cage in Dawson, White Fang is abused for sport by Beauty Smith in chapters 16 through 18. In California in the last seven chapters, the wolf-dog is tamed and willingly employs his strength and...

(The entire section is 706 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Jack London, along with Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, and others, is considered one of the premier...

(The entire section is 489 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

This story begins in the wilderness of the Yukon, in a harsh environment that seems hostile to all life. Through violent extremes of...

(The entire section is 79 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Omniscient Narrator
The narrator of White Fang is omniscient, which is a challenging choice for a writer and a...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In White Fang London's purpose was more clearly didactic, and because his environmental determinism was in the front of his mind as he wrote...

(The entire section is 135 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jack London was part of a turn-of-the-century movement known as literary naturalism, and White Fang exemplifies the characteristics of...

(The entire section is 184 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Whereas The Call of the Wild is a mythic tale in which archetypal concerns predominate, its companion piece White Fang is a sociological...

(The entire section is 275 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

Late 1890s–1900s: In 1898, with the discovery of gold along the Klondike River, the Canadian government separates the Yukon district...

(The entire section is 332 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Compare White Fang's life in the wild with his life on Weedon Scott's ranch. Which is better for White Fang? Why?

2. What is...

(The entire section is 164 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Trace the stages in White Fang's development, noting the chief factors responsible for his change.

2. The Call of the...

(The entire section is 142 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

White Fang tells the life story of the title character, but London chose a somewhat unexpected starting point and ending point for his...

(The entire section is 326 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Because White Fang presents London's environmental determinism so directly, the influence of Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism is...

(The entire section is 66 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

London intended White Fang to be a sequel to The Call of the Wild. In this earlier novel, Buck, a magnificent dog, is taken...

(The entire section is 92 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

White Fang has been adapted to film at least eleven times in seven countries: the United States, France, Germany, Italy, the United...

(The entire section is 123 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Allen, Mary, “The Wisdom of the Dogs: Jack London,” in her Animals in American Literature, University of...

(The entire section is 307 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Day, A. Grove. Jack London in the South Seas. New York: Four Wings Press, 1971. Illustrated account of London’s abortive 1907 voyage around the world on his private yacht, the Snark. The trip permanently damaged his health.

Hedrick, Joan D. Solitary Comrade: Jack London and His Work. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982. Psychological-sociological analysis of London’s writings.

O’Connor, Richard. Jack London: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1964. A good introduction to London’s life and works.

Stasz, Clarice. American Dreamers:...

(The entire section is 147 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

The Call of the Wild (1903) is London’s most well-known novel. It was hugely popular when it was first published and remains a...

(The entire section is 306 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Hamilton, David Mike. "Jack London." In Research Guide to Biography and Criticism, edited by Walton Beacham. Washington, DC: Beacham...

(The entire section is 186 words.)