Ken T's Reviews > White Fang

White Fang by Jack London
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Mar 31, 2012

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Read on March 01, 2012

White Fang is the story of a wolf's journey through life. It begins on a snowy trail in the Northland where two dog sled drivers are being stalked by a band of wolves. One of those wolves is White Fang's mother. From this beginning London takes us on an imaginative journey of a wolf, who by nature and fortune have been made an outcast from his kind and turns to man. In the course of his short life, White Fang has several masters each of whom explore different ways that man treats "man's best friend." Through it all White Fang must learn to negotiate the world of man, whether hostile or benign.

White Fang is a dated, but enjoyable read. I cannot say whether London's views on the behavior of wolves is accurate or not, but I suspect some naturalists and biologists would take issue with some of his presentation of wolves. London's narrative is much stronger when it deals with the rugged outposts of men in the Northland (Alaska and the Yukon), less so when he deals with Native Americans. Some of these last sections strike me as a bit jingoistic, but I could be wrong.

The best parts of White Fang are actually the first few chapters. London creates an intense and gripping narrative of two men being hunted by wolves. Their phlegmatic response to the danger is as intriguing as the way in which the she-wolf (later known as Kiche) masterminds their hunt. As the narrative moves on, however, to the life of White Fang all the narrative tension is lost. It becomes rather a series of biographical incidents in the life of the wolf. While many of them are interesting, London is more concerned with showing how they contribute to the shaping of the wolf's character and nature. Unfortunately these incidents are too often beyond White Fang's control. Thus our main character does not resolve any issues, but merely experiences or survives them. It makes the book easy to pick up and leave off, since there is no obvious point to which the narrative builds.

I have rated this book 3 stars, but it is more like 2 1/2.
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