White Fang: Novel Summary: IV.1 The Enemy of His Kind

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Mit-sah makes White Fang the leader of the sled team, effectively ending any chance, however remote, White Fang may have had of being a friend to the rest of the dogs. He is now their enemy, as Lip-lip was before him. White Fang takes his vengeance on his fellow pack dogs by night. They try to kill him, but they cannot; White Fang is too fast, too strong, and too cunning.
White Fang is five years old in the summer of 1898 when Gray Beaver takes him to Fort Yukon, where white men are pursuing the Gold Rush. Gray Beaver hopes to trade his goods and wares with white men and make a large profit, which he promptly does, larger even than he had anticipated. The white gold-rushers impress White Fang as "another race of beings, a race of superior gods." But the new gods' dogs prove no match for White Fang. He easily fights and defeats them; even, cunningly, leaving before the final blows, allowing the pack of dogs that assembles in his wake to finish off his victim for him, and thus himself avoid punishment from the white men. Separated from Indian sled dogs by hate and from white domesticated dogs by fear, White Fang is virtually an animal unto himself, an incarnation of the Wild-aloof, angry, and alone.
Throughout this chapter, London continues to remind us of the resiliency and tenacity of life: for instance, "But endure [persecution while leading the pack] he must, or perish, and the life that was in him had no desire to perish." The narration also equates life with struggle: ".life and footing were synonymous in this unending warfare with the pack." It is appropriate that these qualities of life in the abstract should now be made concrete in White Fang, for this chapter also explicitly introduces White Fang as a symbol of the Wild itself: "But to him. still clung the Wild. He symbolized it, was its personification." White Fang, due to the cruel environment of human camps-ironically, crueler than the Wild itself in which he lived with Kiche-has become the Wild itself, that "unknown" and "ever warring" reality he himself used to fear, now feared by others. (Incidentally, when the text speaks of White Fang's cunning, readers cannot help but reminded of the reference to cunning in III.5; White Fang now has his father One Eye's cunning [see II.2] but also, and more significantly, the cunning of his human masters. In this respect, too, he has become his own past fear.) This symbolic identification of White Fang with the Wild makes his domestication at the end of the book a powerful statement of man's relationship to the natural world. The representation of White Fang as the Wild personified further develops London's treatment of our environment's effect upon us: "The clay of him was so molded. The clay of White Fang had been molded until he became what he was, morose and lonely, unloving and ferocious, the enemy of all his kind." Readers cannot help but wonder if he can ever be re-made, re-molded, into something else. London also reminds us in this chapter, however, that "nature" as well as "nuture" plays a role in the molding of the clay of life: note how the white men's dogs are cowed by White Fang because he embodies for them (as he does for the Indians' sled dogs) a primal fear of the unknown Wild, passed down through the generations.


This chapter also echoes the comment in III.5 that "there were gods and gods." It portrays the white men, with their superior power (their dwellings, their weapons) as new and superior gods (hence the title of Section IV of the novel). Again, the narrative makes the assertion, "[I]t is on power that godhead rests." But this statement may not exhaust London's definition of either power or godhead, as the conclusion of the story will demonstrate.

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