White Fang

White Fang Summary and Analysis of Part 4

Part Four Summary:

With the death of Lip-Lip, Mit-sah makes White Fang the lead sled dog and the other dogs' hatred of him is intensified. The extra favors bestowed on him along with the extra rations of meat given to him make the pack of dogs attack him more viciously than ever. White Fang can hardly endure it, but endure it he must or perish, and he had no desire to perish. He was continually "marred and scarred by the teeth of the pack, and as continually he left his own marks upon the pack." If ever an animal was an enemy of his own kind, it was White Fang. The other dogs sensed a difference. Like him, they were domesticated wolves, but they had been domesticated for generations. In them the Wild had been lost but in White Fang, in appearance and action and impulse, he still clung to the Wild.

In the summer of 1898, White Fang arrives with Gray Beaver at Fort Yukon along with hundreds gold-hunters. Gray Beaver hoped to make a profit selling mittens and moccasins, but never in his wildest dreams did he realize how much money he was going to make. It was at the fort that White Fang saw his first white men. Even the dog sensed that they "were to him another race of beings, a race of superior gods." Gray Beaver seemed but a child-god among these white-skinned men.

Although the white men may seem more powerful, in comparison their dogs were soft and helpless. White Fang held them in great contempt and was able to overcome them with very little effort. After a time it became his occupation to attacked these weaklings as they arrived on the ships. As the leader of a gang of dogs, White Fang spends his days harassing these dogs and learning to stay out of the way of their masters.

It is in this pursuit that White Fang's actions catch the attention of a man named Beauty Smith. "Beauty" is anything but beautiful. London gives a very colorful description; a small man with a "meager head" and a remarkably wide forehead. His eyes were large and he had an enormous prognathous jaw. The man was the "weakest of weak-kneed and sniveling cowards. In short, Beauty Smith was a monstrosity."

It becomes Beauty's obsession to own this ferocious dog and he offers to buy him from Gray Beaver. Having more money than he ever dreamed possible, Gray Beaver refuses. But Beauty knew the ways of Indians and came to visit the Indian with whiskey tucked under his coat. After many nights of drinking, Gray Beaver's money and goods are gone and then agrees to sell his dog to the white man. Needless to say, White Fang resists going with Beauty and the dog "experienced the worst beating he had ever received in his life. These beatings continued until White Fang submits to this new master.

It was Beauty Smith's goal to turn White Fang into a "fiend." The dog is kept chained in a pen at the rear of the fort and is constantly teased and irritated and tormented. "Formerly, White Fang had been merely the enemy of his kind. He now became the enemy of all things, and more ferocious than ever." Dogs were brought to the pen, bets were placed, and then the fights would begin. White Fang had now achieved a reputation in the land as the Fighting Wolf and was put on exhibition. As Beauty became rich from the fights, men wanting to pit their dogs against White Fang stopped and he remained on exhibition until the spring until a man named Tim Keenan arrived in the land with the first bulldog ever to enter the Klondike. A match between the two dogs was set up.

Cherokee and White Fang entered the ring and neither seemed too anxious to fight until prodded to do so by their masters. The initial advantage belonged to White Fang, but the wolf is still unable to knock the bulldog off his feet and attack the throat of the enemy dog. During one such attack, White Fang loses his footing and the bulldog is able to latch onto his throat. Thrashing about, White Fang is unable to loosen the other dog from his grip and eventually lays down to await his certain death. At this point, two men, Weeden Scott and his master, Matt, enter the scene and rescue the wolf. He throws a paltry sum of money at Beauty Smith and load the dying dog on a sled and take him to their cabin.

Over the next few weeks the men are unsuccessful in their attempt to calm down the dog but they notice that he had been a harness dog and he seems unusually intelligent. Matt decides to unchain the wild animal and then throws him a piece of meat. As one of the other dogs jumps for it, he is instantly killed by White Fang. It is debated rather or not to just kill him but Weeden Scott wants some time to try another approach. He begins to throw him meat and slowly teaches him to eat out of his hand. He then begins to talk softly and gently to the animal. "His voice was kindness - something of which White Fang had no experience whatever." Scott then slowly begins to pet the animal. At first White Fang finds this repulsive, but in short order he begins to find it quite pleasurable. The lordship of man was now in his nature and "because he needed a god and because he preferred Weedon Scott to Beauty Smith, White Fang remained."

Not only did White Fang stay, but he also came to love this new master. When Scott leaves on a business trip and is gone for an extended period of time, White Fang stops eating and moving and is near death until Scott returns. One night, not long after the return, Matt and Scott hear noises outside and realize that White Fang is attacking a man. Upon further examination, they find Beauty Smith outside with a chain and club in is hand. The dog and the two men send him packing.

Part Four Analysis:

Part IV shows the startling contrast between the finest attributes of civilization and the worst. When Gray Beaver takes White Fang on a trading excursion to Fort Yukon, White Fang sees his first white men and learns that these are a "race of superior gods. They possessed greater mastery over matter than the gods he had know, most powerful among which was Gray Beaver. And yet Gray Beaver was a child-god among these white-skinned ones." The Indian proves to be a mere child-god, indeed, when he foolishly barters his best dog for the white man's whiskey. Under his new master, Beauty Smith, White Fang learns that the viciousness of the perverted white man is deadlier than the Wild at its worst. Beauty Smith is a "monstrosity" both psychologically and physically, a sadistic coward who delights in inflicting punishment on his newly acquired dog and in training White Fang to kill other animals while caged for exhibit. Again, London takes a very naturalistic approach to this awful man when he makes it clear that Beauty is also the product of his environment: "Beauty Smith had not created himself, and no blame was to be attached to him. He had come into the world with a twisted body and a brute intelligence. This had constituted the clay of him, and it had not been kindly moulded by the world." Nor is White Fang to be blamed for becoming a raging killer. His environment also shaped him:

He was regarded as the most fearful of wild beasts, and this was borne in to him through the bars of the cage. Every word, every cautious action, on the part of the men, impressed upon him his own terrible ferocity. It was so much added fuel to the flame of his fierceness. There could be but one result, and that was that his ferocity fed upon itself and increased. It was another instance of the plasticity of his clay, of his capacity for being moulded by the pressure of his environment.

Even the fiercest of wild animals, a full-grown lynx, is no match for the cultivated ferocity of the man-trained killer. Significantly, White Fang meets his nemesis in the form of a more highly cultivated killer-beast then himself: the bulldog. It is equally significant that White Fang is saved from death, not by his instinct or other natural abilities, but by a highly civilized with man: Weedon Scott. London's point is that if the environment made by man is sometimes worse than the Wild, it may also be made better - in fact, redemptive: "Weedon Scott Š set himself the task of redeeming White Fang - or rather of redeeming mankind from the wrong it had done White Fang. It was a matter of principle and conscience. He felt that the ill done What Fang as a debt incurred by man and that it must be paid."

In sharp contrast to Beauty Smith, Weedon Scott represents the finest attributes of civilization: intelligence decency, compassion. With patient understanding he gradually wins White Fang's confidence and, finally, his absolute devotion, demonstrating that of all environmental forces love can be the most powerful: "And love was the plummet dropped down into the deeps of him where like had never gone. And responsive, out of his deeps had come the new thing - love. That which was given unto him was returned. This was a god indeed, a love-god, a warm and radiant god, in whose light White Fang's nature expanded as a flower expands under the sun."