The Call of Civilization

By Angelique Konrad

 

 

White Fang begins with a dramatic hunt. A few men are being chased by a pack of starving wolves. This is the promising start of the book by Jack London, who also wrote Call of the Wild, which we can see as companion tale to White fang. Immediately you share the thrill of the chased. Will they survive or will the wolf pack hunt them down?

Fortunately, most of them survive, but that is not the important information at this point. In the first part of the book, it is more important that one of the men’s sled dogs mates with a wolf. Because following this, White Fang is born. This is the starting point of the second part of the book. Early in this second part we start visualizing the world out of the pup’s eyes. Due to the previous part, the reader learns how London’s description of a wolf’s experiences differs from the description of the world experienced by a human and especially what is happening in this world.

In my opinion, this way of describing what white fang feels and thinks, so to say, is pretty unrealistic; though, I have to admit that nobody should criticize London’s imagination. Obviously, it is not possible for us to describe a realistic animalistic view. London is as much a wolf as the readers are, so he can only try to imagine what this special view could be like. I was more than happy to just accept the new perception, just like I did when I read fantasy novels which use pure imagination to describe mysterious things that do not exist in real life.

Anyway, we accompany White Fang and experience how he makes his way out of the wild, unlike Buck from Call of the Wild, into the more or less welcoming arms of human companionship. To be honest, accompanying the wolfhound became more and more like accompanying a black person in times of slavery during the book. At least it felt that way while reading it. Interestingly, you can easily forget about the fact that White Fang is an animal and, at the same time, you cannot forget it. The reason might be that the reader who adapts to the new perception is trapped between two worlds, the human and the animal ones.

White Fang’s first owner is called Gray Beaver. He is a cruel man that punishes White Fang regularly when the wolfhound fails to obey. His next owner Beauty Smith mistreats him even more and even forces him to fight to death against other aggressive dogs. Although White Fang is abused for a long time during the story he never tries to escape back into the wild like Buck. It is more like he seems to take it as it comes. It almost seems like an allegory in which White Fang symbolizes all the people out there who do not escape horrible situations but bear them and fight for a better future right where they are. Even though it might be easier just to turn your back on all of the misery that you going through. This way might not always succeed, therefore it is really satisfying that White Fang finally gets his happy ending. With the help of a nice and caring character, the wolfhound learns to know another better life where he can establish things like trust and true loyalty.

This book is certainly nothing for people who love animals to bits. But especially due to the entire animal mistreating, the book becomes more realistic. It is completely not euphemistic and shows the cruelty of men who must seem like gods to other species. Fortunately, London also shows that there is not only cruelty but also the other side of the coin. The animal learns about civilization and mankind, how to handle situations to survive in this world that seems so different from the wild life. While sharing the thrill with the hunted men in the first part, you will definitely share it in the second one with White Fang until he receives the happy ending that he truly deserves after being through so much punishment.

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