White Fang

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The Law of Meat Symbol Analysis

The Law of Meat Symbol Icon
Meat symbolizes life and hunger. From an early age, White Fang recognizes the role of meat in life: it sustains life by relieving the potentially fatal pangs of hunger and famine. To eat is to live, and so the "aim of meat [is] life." Under the "law of meat," all animals are potential prey, or sources of meat and life.

The Law of Meat Quotes in White Fang

The White Fang quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Law of Meat. 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 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

The aim of life was meat. Life itself was meat. Life lived on life. There were the eaters and the eaten. The law was: EAT OR BE EATEN.

Related Symbols: The Law of Meat
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

London sketches out the laws of a world that's both exhilarating and horrifying. There is no morality, no right or wrong, in the wild: just the law of "kill or be killed," or rather, "eat or be eaten." (This is an obvious echo of The Call of the Wild's "law of club and fang.") As he grows up, White Fang gradually learns the laws of the universe--everything else is just a distraction from the reality of meat.

At this point in the novel, White Fang isn't a very complicated character: he's just a wolf trying to get enough food to survive. And yet we can sense that there's a little more to even White Fang's life than just "eat or be eaten." If White Fang's mother hadn't defended him from his potentially-cannibalistic father, he might not be alive today--the universe hinges on affection and love, not just food.

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The Law of Meat Symbol Timeline in White Fang

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Law of Meat appears in White Fang. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 1
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Mating and Parenthood Theme Icon
...upon a bull moose. They attack the creature, kill it, and gorge themselves with the meat from its carcass. Finally fed, the pack pairs off into males and females. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Mating and Parenthood Theme Icon
Famine strikes the she-wolf's lair. One Eye desperately hunts for meat, but all the cubs, save the gray cub, die of hunger. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Mating and Parenthood Theme Icon
...when the she-wolf brings home a lynx kitten for the cub to eat. But this meat does not come without a cost. The lynx appears in the entrance of the cave... (full context)
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
...leg. Together, they kill the lynx and devour her. The cub learns the law of meat: "EAT OR BE EATEN." Having become a skilled hunter and killer, he feels "very much... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
...elderly hound, Baseek tries to intimidate White Fang into surrendering a prime piece of moose meat. White Fang almost relinquishes it, but defends his right to eat by attacking Baseek. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5
The Struggle for Survival 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,... (full context)
The Struggle for Survival Theme Icon
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
...dog. But Matt defends White Fang, asserting that White Fang was justified in safeguarding his meat against Major's advance. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Domestic Yearnings v. Natural Instinct Theme Icon
Mastery Theme Icon
Domestication Theme Icon
...speaks to him in a soft and gentle voice and tosses him a piece of meat. Scott offers White Fang another piece of meat, but will not let go of it,... (full context)