Book Review – White Fang by Jack London

White Fang is the saga of White Fang, a cub born into the wild. His journey teaches him the laws of nature and man, and asks the question, can a wild, bestial, brutal animal be rehabilitated into a pet? 

Just to start off I want to say that I’m more of a cat person than a dog person! I did love this book though. It starts off with a focus on two humans who are dragging a dead body along, and they’re being pursued by a pack of Wolves. I love London’s way of describing things, and the fact that he uses a capital letter when he refers to the wild gives it an ominous tone, as if it’s some entity that’s doing it’s best to drain away every ounce of life. The brutal nature of life is never shied away from and some parts are actually very difficult to read because there’s a lot of cruelty to animals (and a lot of cruelty between animals), but these things happen in nature and they are a part of life. 

One strong point is that the author doesn’t resort to an anthropomorphic depiction of White Fang. Everything the dog understands is written how I imagine a dog would understand it and this gives the narrative a somewhat unique perspective. It conveyed the struggles of life brilliantly though, and although the wild was cruel and brutal civilisation wasn’t much better. The theme of rehabilitation was strong, as it showed that the main force is how we treat these animals. If we club them and teach them through punishment they may learn, but they’ll also never develop a capacity for love, yet if you give them a warm, gentle touch you may bring out something more tender. This was contrasted with an escaped felon, who sought out vengeance rather than re-integration into society. 

I enjoyed the way the book began but just before the halfway mark it began to drag and was a bit of a slog to work through. However, after that hump it picked up again and I found that I had quickly worked my way through most of the next hundred pages or so. I really liked it, the style was great, the human characters were all different and showed the different aspects of humanity and all through it all I was rooting for White Fang to beat the odds and survive. 

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