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Free Study Guide for White Fang by Jack London - Free Book Notes

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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS


PART II


CHAPTER 1


Summary

This chapter concentrates on the activities of the wolf pack, and the story is told from the perspective of the she-wolf. She is the leader of the pack along with a large gray wolf, a three year-old, and an old, one-eyed wolf seeking to assist her. Her three companions are her suitors, each trying his best to gain her favor. The weaker members of the pack, the very old and the very young, are led by the stronger members. Even though all the wolves are extremely thin, their energy seems inexhaustible. They cover a number of miles each day, traveling in light and dark. They hunt and kill a moose, whose eight hundred pounds of flesh feed the pack of forty wolves.

The pack grows smaller and crosses into the lake country to the east, still led by the she-wolf. She constantly bites at her three male companions, who patiently tolerate her behavior. Finally, however, a fight breaks out among the three males, and the three-year-old is killed by the large gray wolf and the one-eyed wolf. The she-wolf is proud of inspiring this battle. Later, the gray wolf is also killed, and the one-eyed wolf is received kindly by the she-wolf. They mate, and the she-wolf begins to look for a safe place for her litter. They travel together across the country and down to the Mackenzie River, where they meet other wolves who want to join the pack. The one-eyed wolf will not permit newcomers.

At one point the wolves encounter a group of Indians. The she-wolf is familiar with humans and is tempted to return to them, but she heads back to the woods. Next, they encounter a snow rabbit tied to a tree, and the one-eyed wolf is surprised at its speed. He is not able to catch it since it springs with the movement of the plant that holds it. The she-wolf is familiar with the Indians’ hunting snares, and carefully gnaws off the head of the rabbit without being ensnared.



Notes

The chapter, told from the point-of-view of the she-wolf, focuses on animal life in the Wild. She is the leader of the pack and has three males as her “assistants”. All three males have distinct personalities. One is the gray wolf, who snarls at the younger members when they try to pass him; but he is gentle and patient with the she-wolf. Another companion is the old wolf, who is always on the she-wolf’s right side, since only his left eye is intact. When he first tries to mate with the she-wolf, she discourages him. The third assistant is the ambitious, three year-old wolf, who is stronger than the other members of the pack. He, however, is defeated and killed by when the other two assistants join forces and attack him.

The she-wolf and her pack are always in search of food, constantly starving in this frozen environment where there is little life to prey upon. When they encounter a moose, they quickly attack and devour its flesh; the eight hundred pounds does not satisfy the hunger of the forty wolves, and the wolves move on. It is the she-wolf who first locates Bill and Henry, hearing their voices and the whining of their dogs.

The she-wolf is shown to have had experience with human beings, for she is not afraid of fire or of being close to the men. In fact, she is drawn to the Indians, with whom she once lived. By contrast, the one-eyed wolf is a typical wild animal, afraid of humans. The scene in which the one-eyed wolf tries to capture the rabbit is vividly described. The she-wolf, wise and experienced, understands the trap set by the Indians and eats only the rabbit’s head, avoiding the hidden snare.

This entire chapter shows that Jack London possesses considerable knowledge of the activities of wolves, their behavior, and their responses. The fights, the attempts to woo the she-wolf, her searching for a safe place to have her cubs, and the details of pack psychology all add to the authenticity of the story.

 

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