White Fang - Jack London
Following the learning, growth, and adaptations of a wolf, White Fang tells of the resilience of animals as they try to find balance between nature and nurture. From the very beginning of a newborn puppy testing the limits of the physical world to the point where White Fang becomes a father himself, the novel tells of the learning process of an animal throughout his life. When White Fang first joins humans, whom the narrator dubs “gods” because of their power and ability to dominate the world around them, he immediately becomes an outcast. Picked on by the rest of the puppies, White Fang learns the limits of the laws of the gods so he can bend the rules without breaking them, and he learns how to establish his role in relation to the pack. Eventually, White Fang becomes the dog of a new, evil god who tortures White Fang out of all his training. White Fang reverts to “the call of the Wild,” relying on a killer instinct rather than a desire to prove loyalty to a god. Just when his situation seems hopeless, White Fang is rescued by a new god, who shows him love and kindness. Under this new ruler, White Fang re-learns the laws of the gods, how to show loyalty, and how to care.I was not thrilled by White Fang. The story starts off with a tangent that eventually leads into the story of White Fang (tangents in general tend to frustrate me. According to my Kindle, I was almost 30% of the way through the book before White Fang was introduced, although it did move faster once that happened), and the way the story focuses on White Fang felt almost childish at times. I could picture it playing out as an animated movie, with White Fang voiced by some famous actor. As a result, I felt this book would be appropriate for kids – and an excellent lesson in vocabulary for them – because it focuses so much on White Fang. The omniscient narrator describes what White Fang feels without reasoning through it because he is only an animal and does not have the means to draw conclusions. The narrator talks about everything from the difference between a reproving bite and an attempt to kill, to the thrill of the hunt and the desire for meat. There were times when, being an animal lover, I felt strongly connected to and pulled in by what White Fang was doing. I felt anguished when White Fang was being tortured, truly despondent when the nice god went away, and satisfied at the fairy tale ending. Spoiler alert – it does have a happy ending. It doesn’t follow the entire life of the animal the way Marley and Me does.
The main thing I didn’t like about White Fang was how the narrator placed humans as gods. I still find myself reflecting constantly about Ishmael and how the desire to dominate leads to the destruction of the world, and by placing humans as gods in control of everything, White Fang reinforces the idea that humans are meant to dominate the world. Furthermore, the narrator talks about how white-skinned gods have more power than the dark-skinned god that provides the first home for White Fang. Yes, this book was written a long time ago, but that is not an excuse and it should not be read without acknowledging the racism. One redeeming factor I liked about the book was that the god who comes in to save White Fang from his horrible circumstances shows how those in power have the responsibility to protect those weaker than them, which in this case means humans should not torture animals.Given my personal views and opinions, it was hard for me to read the lessons of the book in just the context of an animal growing up and adapting to different life circumstances. I felt the book would have made for a great discussion because there were so many lessons in there about human relationships in general, and too many prejudiced and stereotyped ideas for my taste. However, the novel mostly redeemed itself by the end. Overall, it comes out as an OK book.