White Fang


Jack London

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White Fang: Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

The day begins favorably. No dogs are lost during the night, but an accident occurs on the trail. The sled overturns, forcing Bill and Henry to unharness the dogs from the sled. One Ear breaks into a run towards the she-wolf, who greets him with a coy and playful smile, Yet One Ear retreats from the she-wolf, when the wolf pack ambushes him.
The she-wolf illustrates the struggle between domestic yearnings and natural instincts. Her friendliness towards Bill and Henry's dogs shows her curiosity with the domestic world, but she ultimately preys on their dogs, luring them into the clutches of the wild wolf pack.
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Bill grabs his gun and goes into the thicket to defend One Ear. Henry watches from a distance, the underbrush obscuring his view. Then Henry hears three shots, "a great outcry of snarls and yelps," and then silence. The wolves have eaten Bill and One Ear.
The wolf pack's hunger drives them to eat Bill and One Ear. Even with a gun, Bill cannot protect himself from their intense will to feed, and therefore, survive. The wolves, here, master man.
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Troubled by these deaths, Henry sits and broods for a while. Stirring himself, he rises up and pulls the sled along with the two remaining dogs. He makes camp, lighting a fire to keep the hungry wolves at bay. He doses off, but awakens to see the she-wolf before him. Fearing for his life, he becomes acutely aware of the lifeblood running within him and spends the night throwing hot brands at the wolves.
Henry's fear for his life and acute awareness of his body highlights the intensity of his struggle to live. The fire gives him protection against the wolves, but also highlights the fragility of his life. Just as his flesh tingles with a fiery sensation from the flames, the wolves could just as easily consume it.
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The next night is like the one before. Henry doses off, the she-wolf awakens him, but this time, he drives a searing hot brand into her mouth, burning her flesh and hair. Henry ties a burning pine-knot to his hand to keep himself from falling asleep, yet he drifts off to sleep, dreaming of wolf howls.
Henry's attack on the she-wolf illustrates his intense struggle to live. He is not only willing to strike and burn an animal, but he also singes his owns hands to stay awake, so that he may survive against the wolves that prowl around him and haunt his dreams.
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Real wolf cries awaken him. The wolves are upon him. Henry builds a circle of fire around himself to fend them off. As the fire dies and his stamina wanes, he resigns himself to being eaten by the wolves. He doses off, but wakes up hearing men's voices. A group of travelers has rescued him.
The fire protects Henry from the hungry wolves, but only barely. Because the fire is a thin barrier between the wolves and Henry's life, Henry struggles to keep his will to survive alive. It is only when more travelers—when civilized men—arrive, that Henry is saved from the wolves of the wild.
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