I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In the desolate, frozen wilds of northwest Canada, White Fang, a part-dog, part-wolf cub soon finds himself the sole survivor of a litter of five. In his lonely world, he soon learned to follow the harsh law of the North—kill or be killed.
But nothing in his young life prepared him for the cruelty of the bully Beauty Smith, who buys White Fang from his Indian master and turns him into a vicious killer—a pit dog forced to fight for money.
Will White Fang ever know the kindness of a gentle master or will he die a fierce deadly killer?
***Wanda’s Summer Carnival of Children’s Literature***
Well, Jack London got to have his cake and eat it too, didn’t he? White Fang is like the mirror image of The Call of the Wild. While The Call of the Wild was about a domestic dog going wild, White Fang is the tale of a (predominately) wolf becoming domesticated.
It’s a very sentimental story, structured to get us to identify with the animal. The structure sets us up to view Gray Beaver as fair but unloving, to see Beauty Smith as hateful, and to understand that White Fang’s final owner is the ideal.
Oh the changes that our society has been through since these two books were published! London makes a lot of assumptions. He assumes that European culture is superior to that of Native Americans. He assumes that domestication is superior to being wild (it was in Call too, when Buck was owned by John Thornton). He assumes the rightness of the class structure. Each of White Fang’s owners slots into his spot in this world view.
I remember have the Classics Illustrated comic book version of this story when I was a child, but I didn’t recall a single detail of the story. It was good to read it again in the unabridged version.
I think it is still an excellent book to help children identify with “the other,” to think about the lives of other creatures. It is an empathy building book.