The cub, out of fear of his mother and the unknown, keeps away from the mouth of the cave. Yet, as the cub grows, his fear dissipates and "the rush of life" increases, causing him to crawl towards the wall of light.
The cub's struggle for life is balanced by fear and curiosity. His growth requires a fear of the unknown, but also an intense will to explore, hence his yearning towards the light.
The cub crosses the threshold of the cave, but tumbles down a slope. The light dazzles him, striking him with fear and wonder as he explores this new world. But the cub gains courage, uncovering and eating a brood of ptarmigan chicks. The chick's mother furiously attacks the cub, but a hawk swoops down and carries the mother ptarmigan away.
On his first outing, White Fang learns his place in the food chain. Some animals, like the ptarmigan, are sources of meat, while others, like the hawk, are predatory figures. This balance is indispensible to the struggle for life and survival.
The cub then comes upon a stream. Thinking that water is a solid surface, he falls in and nearly drowns, but washes ashore.
White Fang learns that not all things are as they appear and that life is fraught with unknowns.
Emerging from the water, the cub encounters a yellow mother weasel. It attacks him at the throat, nearly killing him, but the she-wolf rescues the cub in the nick of time and kills the weasel.
Because the weasel nearly kills White Fang with its lethal grip, it is a symbol for life's struggle against death. The weasel's attack also foreshadows White Fang's battle with the bulldog later in the novel.