Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

London considered White Fang to be the companion piece to his more famous work The Call of the Wild (1903). The latter story describes the transformation of a domestic dog into a wild one. The former, on the other hand, shows a wild wolf-dog hybrid becoming a domestic dog, which London considered to be progress. White Fang is partly an autobiographical allegory based on London’s conversion from teenage hoodlum to married, middle-class writer. White Fang’s puppyhood parallels London’s childhood. Because he is three-quarters wolf, White Fang is different from the other dogs both in the Native American camp and in civilization. Likewise, London was an outcast because of his illegitimacy. His biological father refused to marry his mother, and he was born out of wedlock. Both White Fang and the young London regarded themselves as surrounded by enemies and reacted with violence and aggression. They both had mothers who became indifferent to them. Kiche raises another litter; London’s mother was obsessed with astrology and get-rich-quick schemes.

On another plane, the story is an allegory of humanity’s progression from nature to civilization. Love and discipline change a wild wolf into a domestic dog. By implication, such values can also transform society from one that lives by a disguised law of “eat or be eaten” to one founded on humane values.

At the same time, White Fang moves up the hierarchy by killing. Beauty Smith values him for his ability to kill other dogs. Scott’s family finally accepts White Fang when he kills an escaped convict who threatens to kill Scott’s father. The implication is that the metamorphosis of both the individual and society will require violence at some point.


(Novels for Students)

Nature versus Nurture
The overarching theme of the novel is that heredity and environment each contribute to White Fang’s...

(The entire section is 453 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

London called White Fang the "complete antithesis" of The Call of the Wild, but although his canine protagonist moves from wild to civilized,...

(The entire section is 280 words.)