Form and Content

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...

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Historical Context

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

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Setting

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

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Literary Style

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

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Literary Techniques

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...

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Literary Qualities

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

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Social Concerns

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

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Compare and Contrast

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

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Topics for Discussion

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...

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

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

2. The Call of the...

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Topics for Further Study

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

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Literary Precedents

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

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Related Titles / Adaptations

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

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Media Adaptations

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

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Bibliography and Further Reading

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

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Bibliography

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:...

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What Do I Read Next?

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...

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For Further Reference

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.)