'White Fang' Questions for Study and Discussion

Jack London's Companion Novel to 'Call of the Wild'

White Fang
Image provided by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

White Fang is a 1906 novel by American author Jack London. It tells the story of a wild wolf dog struggling to survive in the the Yukon Territory of Canada during the gold rush of the 1890s. Written as a companion piece for his best-known book Call of the Wild, which tells the story of a domesticated dog learning to survive in the wild, White Fang tells the opposite story, of a wild dog who eventually becomes domesticated.

The novel is narrated from White Fang's point of view and contrasts the violence of the animal kingdom with the violence of their human counterparts. Some Jack London scholars believe White Fang is actually a semi-autobiographical story of the author's life, as he went from a somewhat untamed youth to a respected writer. White Fang explores the complexities of taming nature, and suggests that violence may be necessary to survival not only for the individual, but for societies as well.

While White Fang was an immediate success upon its release, most critics consider The Call of the Wild to be London's finest work. But both novels drew the attention of the so-called "nature fakers" movement, which targeted London for criticism. This group questioned the use of anthropomorphism in fiction, which gave human attributes such as reason and sentimentality to wild animals.

Here are a few questions about White Fang for study and discussion.

What is significant about the title?

What image does the name evoke?

How does London reveal character in White Fang, both of the animals and of the humans? Are there clear "good guys" and "bad guys" or do the circumstances complicate these traditional roles?

Do you think the moral conflicts presented are relevant in the setting of the Canadian wilderness?

Why or why not?

There are many themes in the story, including morality and redemption. Do you agree with the "nature fakers" who claim animals are not capable of such higher reasoning, or do you think this novel is effective in showing the difficulties animals faced in the wild?

How would the story have been different if it had been told from the point of view of another dog, such as Kiche or Lip Lip? If White Fang had been told from the point of view of one of the humans, do you think the story have changed significantly? How?

What are some symbols in White Fang? Do you think London uses symbolism effectively, or do the symbols interfere with the action of the story?

Are the characters consistent in their actions? Is it reasonable to expect the characters, especially White Fang, to remain as they are, or would you expect them to evolve? Did they evolve?

How do the writings of Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche surface in the plot of White Fang?

Does the novel end the way you expected? Do you consider it a happy ending in the traditional sense?

How does White Fang compare to The Call of the Wild? Which novel do you prefer, and why?

How essential is the setting of White Fang, both the timer period and the location?

Could the novel have taken place anywhere else and been as compelling a story?

This article is just one part of our study guide to White Fang. Please see the links below for other helpful resources: