White Fang

White Fang Summary and Analysis of Part 5

Part Five Summary:

The last of the many changes that will take place in White Fang take place in Part V and the title, The Tame, suggests what those changes will be. As the chapter unfolds, White Fangs becomes very agitated, sensing some calamity in the air. What Weedon Scott and Matt can't figure out is how the dog knows that Scott is leaving the Yukon Territory to return to his home in California. White Fang begins to howl night and day and his anxiety and restlessness become more pronounced every day. After locking the dog in the kitchen, the two men head off to catch the steamship to California.

As Weedon Scott is about to board the ship, he sees White Fang on the dock several feet away. White Fang's intelligence has earned him a trip to the Southland.

When White Fang lands in San Francisco he becomes aware of perils he has never faced before and realizes everything around him, the traffic, the buildings, the multitude of people, are all manifestations of the god's power. He begins to feel small and puny and as never before, he feels dependent on the love-master. Later in the day as they enter the Scott estate White Fang is set upon by a "sheep-dog, bright-eyed, sharp-muzzled, righteously indignant and angry." As the wolf turns to attack, he realizes that this is a female, Collie, and the law of his kind puts a barrier between them. White Fang is immediately attacked by another sheep-dog, Dick, and Weedon Scott remarks, "I say, this is a pretty warm reception for a poor lone wolf from the Artic."

White Fang was adaptable by nature, but he had traveled a lot and knew the meaning and necessity of adjustment. In order to please his new master, he was ready to learn a completely new set of rules. He learned not to respond violently to the people that belonged to the master; Judge Scott and his wife, Weedon's wife Alice and their two children. "What was of value to the master he valued; what was dear to the master was to be cherished by White Fang and guarded carefully." He learned to tolerated the hands of the children all over him and even found himself sad when they tired of the dog and went on to other playthings.

White Fang had many other lessons to learn. One day, while wandering the yard, he came upon a chicken that had escaped from the chicken-yard. His natural impulse was to eat it, and eat it he did. But he didn't stop there. Within minutes he was in the chicken house and when the master came out, over fifty hens were dead. The master talked firmly and strongly to White Fang and "at the same time cuffed him soundly." The incident was never repeated. With his intelligence he soon figured out the difference between the domestic animals (sheep, cats, chickens, dogs) and the wild animals (rabbits, quail, squirrels) that he was allowed to hunt.

Life became very easy for White Fang, "there was plenty of food and no work in the Southland, and White Fang lived fat and prosperous and happy." One of his happiest moments was riding each day with the master. He never tired and was always able to keep up with the horses. One day, while Weedon Scott was struggling with a horse, he was thrown and his leg was broken. The master ordered White Fang home to get help. Running into the yard, the dog knocked over one of the children and was ready to be "cuffed" for pulling on aprons and paints, when the family figured out that Weedon was missing and needed help. Respect for the dog came in an unusual way. Collie, the female sheep-dog, ceased harassing him and invited him to run through the fields with her.

With the escape of Jim Hall from San Quentin, the book is about to come to a dramatic conclusion. This convict is described as "a ferocious man. He had been ill-made in the making. He had not been born right." Although wrongly convicted, Judge Scott was unaware of the police railroading but was about to feel this man's revenge. Knowing that danger could be imminent, the Judge's wife began to secretly let White Fang sleep in the entry way at night. When Jim Hall does enter the Scott home, White Fang attacks and kills the criminal, but not before he takes three bullets. White Fang is critically wounded and the doctor announces to the family, "Frankly, he has one chance in a thousand." But again, London's theme of "survival of the fittest" comes into play. This is not an average dog or wolf and his strong body and nature allow him to survive. The women of the home have renamed him "Blessed Wolf." The book ends with White Fang playing in the warm California sun with his new puppies.

Part Five Analysis:

White Fang ends where The Call of the Wild had begun, at Judge Scott's estate in the Santa Clara Valley. Here the wolf-hero must learn what Buck had to unlearn: respect for the laws, established by men, regarding property. At first White Fang responds as he did in the Northland. When he sees a chicken, he tears into it and eats it. But after he goes on a rampage and kills fifty chickens at once, earning both the ire and the admiration of his master, Weedon Scott, he learns that chickens are off limits. This was a law decreed by the "god," and to please his "love-master" he obeys his laws punctiliously. White Fang is not only very smart, he is extremely adaptable, and this is his strength. "Life had a thousand faces, and White Fang found he must meet them all." In California life is more complex than it was in the Northland and "the chief thing demanded by these intricacies of civilization was control, restraint - a poise of self that was delicate as the fluttering of gossamer wings and at the same time as rigid as steel Š

Life flowed past him, deep and wide and varied, continually impinging upon his senses, demanding of him instant and endless adjustments and correspondences and compelling him, almost always, to suppress his natural impulses."

This suppression of his natural impulses goes hand in hand with the canine equivalent of marriage. One day White Fang deserts his master to follow Collie, a rather shrewish female, into the woods: "The master rode alone that day; and, in the woods, side by side, White Fang ran with Collie, as his Mother, Kiche, and old One Eye had run long years before in the silent Northland forest." The language closely parallels the ending of The Call of the Wild, but the lyric beauty of that book is replaced in White Fang by a coy sentimentality. Collie presents White Fang with "a half-dozen pudgy puppies," and the book ends as they come "sprawling toward him Š he gravely permitting them to clamber and tumble over him as he lay with half-shut, patient eyes, drowsing in the sun."

The dramatic confrontation between two diametrically opposed products of environment - the brutalized man the humanized beast - occurs when the convict, Jim Hall, breaks into Judge Scott's home to "wreak vengeance" on the man who "railroaded" him into prison. Judge Scott's life is saved by White Fang, who very nearly loses his own life before slashing the throat of the killer. Jim Hall is a mad dog that must be destroyed for the safety of respectable citizens. In his encounter with the convict, White Fang has suffered several bullet wounds and is critically injured. But White Fang beats the odds and lives to be christened "The Blessed Wolf" by the Scott family. He lives, not only because of his extraordinary natural toughness, a legacy of the Wild, but also because of the therapeutic combination of medical expertise and loving care, the fines manifestation of The Tame (the title of Part V). These are the blessings available to all of God's creatures, suggests London, of only civilized man will avail himself to them.

Again, as in previous chapters, London takes a naturalistic approach to certain aspects of this chapter. Even though Jim Hall is bent on murdering Judge Scott, the author emphasizes that Hall is not to be blamed for his intention. Hall was "ill-made in the making," London tells the reader; though Hall is "so terrible a beast that he can best be characterized as carnivorous," it is not his fault. "The more fiercely he fought, the more harshly society handled him, and the only effect of harshness was to make him fiercer," lectures London. London was convinced that the penal system in the United States was morally wrong and chooses this time to get his point across, "Straight-jackets, starvation, and beatings and clubbings were the wrong treatment for Jim Hall; but it was the treatment he received.

White Fang was written during his romance with Charmian and published after their marriage and thus it is symbolic of own decision to tame his "wild" appetites, if he could. Another interesting symbol in this novel is the oasis of the campfire (Chapter I) surrounded by the sinister darkness of the wild. This image is a microcosm of the larger landscape; the Northland wilderness as opposed to the grassy estate in the Santa Clara Valley - the "Southland of life," in which "human kindness was like a sun."

Although very naturalistic in his approach to this novel, London received a great deal of criticism for the abrupt ending. When White Fang finally recovers from his injuries, he ventures out into the warm California sun and greats Collie and his new puppies. Instead of ending the novel in the same naturalistic vein he began, London ends White Fang with a distinctively romantic flare.