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Survival of the Fittest
One of the dominant Themes in the novel is the Darwinian theory of "the survival of the fittest." White Fang and his mother (Kiche, the she-wolf) are both exposed to the cruel ways of nature. As a responsible and clever leader, Kiche guides her pack of wolves through the cold, brutal, dead environment of Northland Wild. The bitter temperature and lack of food make it difficult to exist, but Kiche is intelligent, strong, and determined. She survives by luring sled dogs away from their camp and devouring them. When necessary for survival, she will even attack a human.
White Fang is also exposed to the harshness of nature. At an early age, he learns hunger, as he fights to survive several famines. He also learns that he must learn to fight to survive, for the law of nature is to "eat or be eaten." The fight with the lynx, the battles with Lip-lip, and the dogfights in the ring all teach him survival skills. He also learns that man is a powerful beast, and the beating from the hands of humans make White Fang even more determined to come out on top.
The urge to survive is seen throughout every chapter in White Fang, serving as a unifying theme to hold the exciting episodes of the book together.
Love Begets Love
Love begets love is another important theme of the novel. Throughout most of his early life, White Fang knows nothing but cruelty and violence. As a result, he develops hatred and aggression. His first master, Gray Beaver, beats White Fang into submission and obedience; in spite of the violence, the wolf-dog respects and obeys Gray Beaver, not out of love, but out of a fear of punishment. White Fang's second master, Beauty Smith, inspires nothing but hatred, for he is a mean, violent, and cruel man. Weedon Smith, White Fang's third master, is a total contrast to the first two, for he is a kind and gentle man who gives the wolf- dog affection and teaches him to love.
Scott rescues White Fang from certain death, for he is pinned by a bulldog, who is attacking his throat. Because he is a kind man, he nurses White Fang to health and gives him affection. At first White Fang is distrustful, because of his earlier experiences; but Scott has patience and continues to encourage the wolf-dog. He finally coaxes White Fang to him by using pieces of meet.
Before long, White Fang allows Scott to pet him. Then when Scott tries to teach White Fang, he uses voice control rather than violence. White Fang is totally amazed and learns quickly from this new style of teaching. He also becomes totally devoted to Scott for his kindness and affection. In fact when Scott goes away, White Fang is so miserable that he cannot eat or drink. When Scott hears that White Fang is growing ill, he rushes home. There is obviously a deep, mutual love between this gentle master and fierce wolf-dog, proving that love does indeed beget love.