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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
The story centers around White Fang, the gray wolf cub born of Kiche and One Eye. He is shown to be different from the other pups in his litter and grows to be highly aggressive and morose.
Some of his masters, like Gray Beaver and Beauty Smith, do not show him any kindness whatsoever. He learns to obey the stick that is freely applied by his masters and becomes violent in the process, snapping and growling at both animals and humans.
White Fang wants to be left alone all the time, but he is made to fight dogs, wolves, and even a lynx. This combat only reinforces his hatred towards every living creature.
Weedon Scott, a mining expert, enters White Fang's life when the wolf is nearly killed in a fight with Cherokee, a bulldog. Scott takes White Fang away with him. He shows him kindness, pats him, speaks to him reassuringly, and eventually succeeds in gaining White Fang's undying love and devotion.
Because of this gentle treatment, White Fang transforms from the killer wolf-dog that he once was. He becomes totally devoted to his kind master and guards Scott's property and family at any price. He kills Jim Hall, the convict out to hurt Scott's father. White Fang, however, is severely wounded during this confrontation. The family does their best to save his life, and White Fang survives to become the father of Collie's puppies.
In the course of the book, White Fang finally learns to give and receive affection.
The major theme of the novel is that love begets love. This classic tale is about a violent, morose, and suspicious wolf-dog who is 'tamed' by the love and kindness of his gentle master.
By the end of the book, White Fang has submitted totally to his kind master and will doing anything to protect him and his family. In the same vein, London shows that hate begets hate, as proven by White Fang's early experiences with his cruel masters and by the case of Jim Hall.
The minor, but equally important, theme of the novel is the Darwinian theory of "survival of the fittest" in a cruel, ruthless, and wild world. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was a British naturalist who contributed to the theory of evolution.
In White Fang and other works, London makes references to the concept of natural selection by which only the strongest members of a species will survive. White Fang, despite the many external factors that conspire against him, is an example of an excellent physical specimen who can survive in his harsh environment. Had he not been able to protect himself in the wild, he would never have experienced the love of his kind master.
The main mood of the novel is cold and frightening. London creates a tale of horror in an unexplored land, pointing out the mysteries of the wild and the fear of the unknown. In the beginning, the Northland Wild is portrayed as a threat to any form of life. Later, the deep, dark woods seem to hold all kinds of terrors, which intimidate the weak-hearted.
Overall, the mood is fearful, combined with a sense of bitter cynicism and suspicion on the part of White Fang. The violence perpetrated upon him is as chilling as his rages are frightening. This bleak mood is in sharp contrast to the domesticate happiness that White Fang feels at the end of the novel with his new, kind master, Weedon Scott.