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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
The she-wolf and One Eye hang about the Indian camp for two days until a bullet is fired into the forest and they are forced to leave. She finally finds a good place to have her cubs. It is a small cave above a stream that flows into the Mackenzie in the summer; the stream is now frozen. The she-wolf settles into the cave while One Eye keeps watch at the entrance. Hungry, he goes hunting and stays out for eight hours without any success.
He returns to find a litter of cubs, which the she-wolf is carefully guarding, for fear that One Eye will devour them. One Eye, instead, feels a strong paternal instinct. He goes hunting again and catches a ptarmigan (grouse); he does not eat it, but saves it for his family. Then he comes across a porcupine that has been injured by a lynx. He eats the ptarmigan and carries the porcupine "home" to a warm reception by the she-wolf.
This chapter contains an interesting description of how the she- wolf and One Eye start a family and dutifully play their respective roles of mother and father. The she-wolf finds the right place to have her cubs, inspecting both the inside and outside of the cave thoroughly before settling in. One Eye guards the entrance. He also goes in search of food for himself and his family. One Eye's hunting escapades, his explorations throughout the new locale, and his experiences with the porcupine and lynx are all vividly portrayed; each helps the development of his character as a concerned father and as a typical wolf. The introduction of the female lynx is also important, for she later plays a role in the lives of the she-wolf and White Fang.
The she-wolf's fears that the starving One Eye will eat her cubs are unfounded since he seems to be playing the role of father to perfection. Although ravenous himself, he does not eat his first prey, the grouse, until he has found something else, the porcupine, to take home to feed his family.
Aptly titled "The Gray Cub," the chapter is devoted to describing one of the litter of five, comprised of two females and three males. The gray, male cub is the most striking of the new wolves. His coat is gray, like that of a true wolf, whereas his siblings have inherited their mother's red hue. This cub is also a smart creature, more inquisitive than the others. All five want to explore the "wall" of light, towards which they crawl, only to be pushed back by their mother.
The gray cub soon learns to distinguish between nudges that are rebukes and crushing paws that serve to hurt. He also learns how to inflict hurt and how to avoid being hurt. During his 'cubhood,' he watches his parents take careful care of him. He also watches as all his siblings are lost to starvation. When his father stops visiting them, the she-wolf knows he has been killed by the lynx in a fight. In turn, she carefully avoids the territory where the lynx is taking care of her litter of kittens, for the she-wolf is powerless to fight her and win by herself.
Although unstated, the reader realizes that the gray cub is to grow and become White Fang, the central character and protagonist of the story. Since his coat is totally gray like One Eye's and since his basic nature is aggressive, he definitely stands apart from the other four cubs. His parents sense that he is born to be a leader and nurture him over the other four cubs, who eventually starve to death.
The thoroughness of the description is quite striking, as the author explores the mind-set of the gray cub, his inquisitive nature, his way of learning, his intelligence, and his reaction to losing his siblings and his father. On his way to exploring the entrance to the cave, the cub learns a few things from his mother. Her sharp nudges are meant to hurt him, and so he quickly learns to avoid hurt by not taking such risks. He is the also the first to learn how to overpower the other cubs. Moreover, his growl is the most impressive of them all. London makes this gray cub so special that he says the cub is capable of forming conclusions as sharp and distinctive as men's. But the cub accepts things without questioning, for "logic and physics were not a part of his mental make-up."