White Fang, Jack London’s 1906 companion (and thematic mirror) story to his classic The Call of the Wild begins with an archetypal London setting, a scene of desperate survival in a harsh, cruel environment.
Following the growth of a hybrid wolf-dog as he grows and fights and survives in the frozen north, White Fang embodies and demonstrates many of the common themes of London’s work such as survival of the fittest, isolation from society, and a primitive naturalism.
In the spirit of Joseph Conrad and Algernon Blackwood, London subtly personifies “the wild” until it is as much a character as one who gets a line of dialogue. Blackwood’s novella The Wendigo is a close companion to White Fang in that the frozen, inhospitable and unforgiving northlands comes to add an antagonistic quality to the narrative.
In many ways White Fang, more brutal and less dramatic than Call of the Wild, is the more quintessential London novel, though my pick for best London book is still The Sea Wolf.
This story mixes in a lot of dialogue and arguments that we generally come across when there is a discussion between people on the topic of animal rights. The author sort of plays on these arguments and sentiments as he weaves them into the story of wolves, their lives and their interactions with human species. There were a lot of moments which were profound in regards to the humans’ relationship with wild animals. The author makes a curious and probably a symbolic choice of telling us that the wolves see humans as Gods, as in, humans are far more superior than themselves and that humans can do things the wolves dare not dream of. This choice makes a noticeable change in the effect the story has on the reader and for me personally, makes the underlying theme even deeper than it already is.
The story of White Fang itself, from its birth till the end, was a gruelling, touching and fierce journey and most of its trials and tribulations are a result of the insensitive cruelty of man, to whom he surrenders and gives his fealty. Many a time I found that someone around me was cutting onions, so I had to close the book and my eyes for some time before resuming. This story was as epic as it was endearing.