White Fang

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White Fang Part 4, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Scott and Matt watch a chained White Fang "bristling" and "snarling" at their sled dogs. Scott believes it is "hopeless" to train White Fang, but Matt maintains that White Fang is a tamed creature. To show his point Matt, raises his club with one hand to distract White Fang. While White Fang keeps a steady eye on the weapon, Matt unchains him with the other. White Fang is astonished by his freedom.
White Fang has been "tamed" in the sense that he has been taught to obey any power greater than his own—men with clubs. White Fang's astonishment about being let off his leach indicates the degree to which his previous masters owned him but did not ever give him their trust or love.
Themes
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
Domestication Theme Icon
Matt brings out a piece of meat for White Fang. Scott's dog, Major, leaps for it, but White Fang strikes him down, killing the dog and injuring Matt's leg in the skirmish.
Though White Fang has been trained to obey man, his life has also trained him to hate and oppress other dogs. He knows to obey the strong but thinks also that he should oppress the weak.
Themes
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
The incident shows Scott that White Fang is still untamed, so he takes out his revolver and prepares to shoot the dog. But Matt defends White Fang, asserting that White Fang was justified in safeguarding his meat against Major's advance.
Scott doesn't understand White Fang, thinking his actions are plain "wildness." Matt understands the laws of nature, though, that White Fang lives by nature's law: "eat, or be eaten."
Themes
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
Scott approaches White Fang, talking to him in a smooth and gentle voice. But White Fang grows suspicious when Scott lowers his hand over his head. Fearing hurt and punishment, White Fang snarls and crouches, until his "insatiable yearning for life" overcomes him and he bites Weedon Scott's hand.
Note how Scott's approach with his hand mirrors a similar approach from Gray Beaver when White Fang was a pup. But now White Fang has seen too much cruelty from his owners to allow himself to be mastered. After so much time with Beauty, giving in to Scott seems likely to result in pain. So he fights.
Themes
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
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Matt gets his rifle to shoot White Fang, but Scott defends the dog, saying that "it served [him] right." Matt and Scott notice White Fang hiding behind the cabin away from the firearm's deadly range. They both conclude that White Fang is "too intelligent to kill."
Unlike Beauty Smith, or Gray Beaver, Scott does not reprimand White Fang with violence, but with mercy. While Matt is ready to kill White Fang, Scott spares him.
Themes
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon