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White Fang: Novel Summary:V.3 The God's Domain

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As White Fang must adapt to life at Sierra Vista, so must the Scotts' other dogs adapt to him. Collie especially is in no hurry to accept him, for she is fighting against her sheepdog instincts: "Woven into her being was the memory of countless crimes he and his had perpetrated against her ancestry. Not in a day nor a generation were the ravaged sheepfolds to be forgotten." Collie exploits White Fang's instinctual deference to the female to persecute him-in gentler ways than did Lip-lip, to be sure (e.g., "a nip on his hindquarters")-yet persecution all the same. At the same time, he is learning to receive expressions of affection from the Scott family.

He must also, however, learn to negotiate another series of laws and restraints. When White Fang comes across a chicken who has escaped from the coop, he yields to instinct, attacking it, eating it, and enjoying it. Scott must teach him not to eat the chickens. The rest of the family, particularly Judge Scott, is dubious that the wolf-dog can learn this lesson-but learn it he does, eventually able to stay in the chicken coop without attacking any of the fowl. On the other hand, on one visit to San Jose, Weedon Scott eventually gives White Fang license to attack dogs who abuse him. White Fang kills three such dogs-and receives fearful respect from the residents, and their dogs, thereafter.

This chapter makes another point in London's ongoing analysis of human life and society by way of focusing on animal life and society: "Life in the Northland"-that is, the Wild-"was simplicity itself when compared with the complicated affairs of Sierra Vista." Readers will want to note the definition of civilization that London offers in this chapter, perhaps not without a touch of irony and good humor: "Here [in San Jose] he was compelled to violate his instinct of self-preservation, and violate it he did, for he was becoming tame and qualifying himself for civilization." London's point may well be that to be civilized, human beings must voluntarily check their instincts-even their instinct to self-preservation, in order to form a mutually beneficial society, where the good of the self is balanced with the good of others.

The chapter also further elaborates on the motif of hands that London highlighted in III.5. There, White Fang feared and hated human hands, and for good reason; here, he must learn to overcome that ingrained hatred in order to coexist with the "god's" children. And, indeed, the wolf-dog does eventually allow himself to be petted, but he never completely gives himself emotionally to any human but Weedon Scott. In White Fang's relationship with Weedon Scott, we see, more clearly than anywhere else in the book, the proper and beneficial balance of "nature" and "nurture." White Fang "obeyed his natural impulses until they ran him counter to some law"-instinct and experience now exist in harmony, and the element that has allowed them to do so is love: Scott's love for White Fang, and White Fang's love for Scott.

Finally, readers may choose to note Collie's instinctual, genetic aversion to White Fang. Clearly, London is offering a rational and realistic treatment of a sheepdog's natural dislike of a wolf, a domesticated animal's inherent mistrust of an animal from the Wild. Yet the language London uses can, for modern readers at any rate, evoke the recognition of the language in which irrational and unfair prejudices among humans are often cloaked: holding one accountable for the "crimes. perpetrated" by one's forebears, for example, or nursing ancient grudges ("A feud, ages old."). Again, London is not painting animals, who cannot be expected to know any better, as prejudicial; but modern readers may find in London's language a caution for human beings, who must be expected to know better! The dynamic may be one further example of London's comparisons of humans and animals throughout the book.


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