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.)