White Fang

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Man's Hand Symbol Icon
All of White Fang's owners use their hands to strike White Fang in order to correct his behavior. White Fang comes to regard man's hand as an instrument of hurt, punishment, danger, cunning, and mastery. He is distrustful of man's touch. But Scott uses his hands to show affection and love towards White Fang, so White Fang ends up putting his trust in man's hands.

Man's Hand Quotes in White Fang

The White Fang quotes below all refer to the symbol of Man's Hand. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of White Fang published in 1991.
Part 3, Chapter 2 Quotes

For behind any wish of [man's] was power to enforce that wish, power that hurt, power that expressed itself in clouts and clubs, in flying stones and stinging lashes of whips.

Related Symbols: The Club, Man's Hand
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Again, London suggests that wolves (or at least dogs) must be subservient to men because of the natural order of life. White Fang is just a young wolf (and part dog), meaning he hasn't really learned how to be wild yet. Moreover, White Fang wouldn't be able to defend himself against most humans' weapons, even if he were a mature wolf.

The natural law of the universe, it's suggested, is force and mastery. All power stems from the ability to wield force quickly and skillfully. White Fang has to learn to submit to his human masters because they have clubs and he has none--it's that simple. Over the course of the novel, White Fang will learn how to obey many different kinds of masters--and yet at all times, it's implied that White Fang needs to obey a master.

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Part 4, Chapter 5 Quotes

[White Fang] did not want to bite the hand, and he endured the peril of it until his instinct surged up in him, mastering him with its insatiable yearning for life.

Related Characters: White Fang, Weedon Scott
Related Symbols: Man's Hand
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, White Fang bites the hand that saved his life. Weedon Scott is a sympathetic man who doesn't want to do White Fang any harm. And yet White Fang doesn't realize that his new owner is better than Beauty Smith: Scott isn't going to hurt him or torture him. Because White Fang has been raised and nurtured to be brutal to all strangers, he bites Scott's hand--even though in his mind, he doesn't "want" to.

The passage shows the interplay between instinct and training; nature and nurture. One could argue that White Fang was bred and trained to be brutal--before he was with Smith, he wasn't nearly so dangerous. And yet one could also argue that White Fang's time with Beauty Smith merely brought out instincts in White Fang that had been suppressed previously. In any case, it's clear that White Fang is the product of his environment, as much as his parents.

Part 4, Chapter 6 Quotes

[Scott's] voice was soft and soothing. In spite of the menacing hand, the voice inspired confidence. And in spite of the assuring voice, the hand inspired distrust. White Fang was torn by conflicting feelings, impulses. It seemed he would fly to pieces, so terrible was the control he was exerting, holding together by an unwonted indecision the counter-forces that struggled within him for mastery.

Related Characters: White Fang, Weedon Scott
Related Symbols: Man's Hand
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, White Fang faces an incredible crisis. Internally, he's presented with a dilemma. Weedon Scott has taken him home and offered him some comfort. Previously, Scott has saved White Fang's life, not once but twice. And yet White Fang has long been trained to be brutal and savage to those who get close to him.

In short, White Fang faces a conflict between gentleness and aggression: should he accept his new master, or fight him? In times of crisis, animals in the novel always show their true colors. Here, we're left to see which side of White Fang is truly stronger, his friendly side or his aggressive side.

Part 5, Chapter 3 Quotes

[White Fang] obeyed his natural impulses until they ran counter to some law... But most potent in his education were the cuff of his master's hand, the censure of the master's voice. It was the compass by which he steered and learned to chart the manners of a new land and life.

Related Characters: White Fang, Weedon Scott
Related Symbols: Man's Hand
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

White Fang has now been moved to live with Weedon Scott's family. White Fang is still a somewhat wild animal, with wild instincts, and yet he learns quickly to be calm and docile. White Fang changes his behavior, not just because a master beats him into submission (although Scott does "cuff" him when he's disobedient), but because Scott treats him with love and encourages him to learn.

The passage could easily be interpreted as a metaphor for the development of society. After the "epiphany" of accepting cooperation and peace, our ancestors had to gradually transition to a civilization in which cooperation and peace were the norms, not exceptions. By the same token, White Fang gradually learns how to be civilized and domesticated--to accept the mastery of a human in exchange for consistent food, shelter, and love.

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Man's Hand Symbol Timeline in White Fang

The timeline below shows where the symbol Man's Hand appears in White Fang. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 3, Chapter 1
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
Mating and Parenthood Theme Icon
An Indian approaches him, lowering his hand to touch the cub's head. The cub cannot decide whether "to yield," or "to fight,"... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
...she's taken aboard a canoe. Gray Beaver, in his canoe, overtakes the pup, using his hand to lift White Fang out of the water and give him the worst beating he... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
Domestication Theme Icon
...meat, but will not let go of it, until White Fang eats it from his hand. Cautiously, White Fang gradually eats the meat from Scott's hand. (full context)
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
Domestication Theme Icon
Scott reaches out his hand to pet White Fang. Battling with his natural instincts, White Fang bristles and snarls at... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Nature v. Nurture Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
Domestication Theme Icon
...presence, but Collie still snarls at this wild creature with distrust. "The cuff" of Scott's hand, and the call of his voice trains and teaches White Fang to adapt to domestic... (full context)