Throughout White Fang, Jack London uses the theme of naturalism. Generally, naturalism refers to those who viewed life strictly from a scientific approach; in this case that translates to the view that man and other creatures were victims of their heredity and environment. The environmental theme is signaled at the onset of White Fang as London vividly describes the landscape, paradoxically combining a foreboding animism with a sinister desolation. With the environmental theme in mind, this novel is written with biological and social determinism, and London insists that although Beauty Smith was "a monstrositythe blame of it lay elsewhere. He was not responsible." Jim Hall is also portrayed as a victim of his environment, not responsible for his actions. White Fang's heredity is carefully defined, "one-fourth dog, three-fourths wolf," leading up to the struggle within him between his civilized impulses and his wild ones. London is also particularly careful to adhere to established facts of a wolf's life cycle in White Fang's early years.
Survival of the Fittest
Jack London write many books with Darwin's popular ideas in mind, particularly White Fang and The Call of the Wild. The process of "natural selection" means that only the strongest, brightest, and most adaptable elements of a species will survive. This idea is embodied by the character, White Fang. From the onset, he is the strongest wolf-cub, the only one of the litter to survive the famine. His strength and intelligence make him the most feared dog in the Indian camp. While defending Judge Scott, White Fang takes three bullets but is miraculously able to survive. One element of the book one might overlook is White Fang's ability to adapt to any new circumstances and somehow survive. He learns how to fight the other dogs, he learns to obey new masters, he learns to fight under the evil guidance of Beauty and, finally, he learns to love and be tamed by Weedon Scott.
White Fang was written during the courtship and marriage of London to Charmian Kittredge and a romantic theme is part of the novel. Part V reflects how love can tame natural behavior and instincts. As White Fang learns to love Weedon Scott, this love produces a desire in the dog to do anything to please his "love master." This includes having Weedon's children climb and play with him, and learning to leave chickens alone, although the taste was extremely pleasing to him. Just as White Fang was tamed by love, Jack London was tamed by love as he began staying away from the whorehouses in San Francisco and trying to overcome a severe drug habit.
White Fang Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for White Fang is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
London makes frequent use of several kinds of figurative language. Consider the novel's first sentence "Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway." The personofication here is strong linging reader with the natural elements.