Jack London (1896 – 1916) was born in San Francisco in 1876. His family was poor, and Jack left school at fifteen to work in a factory. However, he soon found this boring, so he left home and bought a boat with money that he had borrowed, and lived by fishing. At seventeen, he became a seaman and travelled to Russia and Japan, and wrote about his voyage for a newspaper. When he was eighteen he travelled around America and made notes about his journey, which later became a book. Back in California, he decided to return to school and after that went to university. However, he left after only a few months and went to look for gold in Alaska. After a winter there, he returned with no gold, but plenty of ideas for stories.
He sold his first story in 1899, and wrote a book of Alaskan stories in 1900. The Call of the Wild, also about Alaska, came out in 1903. This was an immediate success, and The Sea Wolf (1904) and White Fang (1905) followed. He soon became one of the highest-paid and most popular writers in the world.
He never stopped travelling, and in 1907 he tried to sail around the world with his wife. However, he began to spend more money than he earned, and this and drinking problems made his last years unhappy. He died in 1916.
Publisher: Penguin Readers
Level: 4 Intermediate (2300 words)
Substance of the book: Almost all this story happens in Canada, most of it in northern Canada. At the end of the story, White Fang lives with his owner, Scott, in California, where Scott actually comes from. The story happens around the year 1898, which is the year of the “Gold Rush“.
The story starts by describing two gold-diggers, Bill and Henry, who have six dogs and travel many days to the nearest town through the cold snow of Canada. Every night, a pack of 40 wolves grows braver, and each night, one of the dogs disappears. But the men have only three bullets left in their guns.
Henry tries to kill the wolves, but he dies. Fortunately, Bill is found by a group of passing men, and is saved.
The leader of the pack is a she-wolf, Kiche. In the spring, Kiche has five newborn cubs. One of the cubs is White Fang. He is the fiercest of all of the five cubs. White Fang learns about life. He meets and learns about new animals, learns how to fight them; he learns what is dangerous, he learns where to find meat, he learns everything that he will ever need as a proper wolf. "Eat or be eaten": that’s one of White Fang's mottos; this is the law of meat.
One day, Kiche and White Fang go hunting. Suddenly, White Fang meets two-legged animals (people) that he has never met before. These people are Indians and they realize that Kiche is a dog they know. Kiche had run away from a group of Indians, when there was a time of hunger, with nothing to eat. Now, an Indian, whose brother was Kiche's owner, is dead, so he decides to keep them (White Fang and his mother) himself, and calls Kiche’s cub White Fang. The Indian is called Grey Beaver.
So White Fang and his mother live with the Indians. Grey Beaver is in debt, so he has to sell Kiche. White Fang is left alone. White Fang begins to hate people when they separate him from his mother.
Grey Beaver uses White Fang as a leader dog for pulling his sledge.
Grey Beaver and White Fang move to Fort Yukon, where Grey Beaver wants to sell some pelts. Here, a bad man, “Beauty“ Smith (who is ugly) watches White Fang’s power and victory in every fight and wants to own him, because he loves his fierceness.
Grey Beaver doesn’t want to sell White Fang, but Smith teaches him to drink whisky and Grey Beaver becomes dependent on it. He drinks more and more, and when he has no money to buy whisky, he finally sells White Fang to Beauty Smith.
White Fang hates Smith, and leaves him several times to return to Grey Beaver, but Smith always catches him and brings him back. At last, Beauty Smith ties White Fang in chains. White Fang has to live in a cage, and Smith arranges matches with him. White Fang is such a good fighter that he always wins.
One day, White Fang is obliged to fight with a bulldog (the first bulldog he has ever seen, which means it is an unknown animal for him). As the bulldog called Cherokee (his owner is Tim Keenan) is much smaller than White Fang, he manages to bite White Fang on his chest during the match. White Fang is in danger of dying, but fortunately, two men go round to the match (that was held in a forest so that no one (policemen) could see it, as it is prohibited) and one of them, Weedon Scott (the other is called Matt) buys White Fang for only 150 dollars (as he is almost dying). White Fang begins to love Scott, although for the first few days, he behaves badly and still hates everything around him. But Scott gives him love, which he did not know before, so White Fang starts to love him too. When Scott has to go back to California (where he actually comes from), he leaves White Fang at their (Matt’s and his house) alone. When he and Matt get to the ship that is supposed to také Scott back to California, to their great surprise they meet White Fang waiting for them on the shore. White Fang jumped through the closed window in their house, only to see Scott leaving. Scott decides to bring White Fang with him to California.
In San Francisco, California, it is very hard for White Fang to get used to his new life.
White Fang catches a thief in Scott’s house and is wounded, but survives his serious injuries.
At the very end, a female Collie bears pups. White Fang’s pups.
My own opinion of the book: This book is certainly good, mainly at describing White Fang’s feelings. It’s beautiful how the author could imagine what the wolf (half dog – as his mother was a dog, but his father was a wolf) can feel. There aren’t many people who can think how animals feel. I mean people don’t usually mind if they hurt animals‘ feelings and sometimes can even change animals‘ souls to hate everything around (as White Fang did a part of his life, before he found out that some people can be also kind and warm) and to want to destroy it. This was a nice book about what animals can feel, how they think of their life, and how they think of the people. White Fang’s story was also sad, but ended well and I liked it.'
Jack London is a wonderful writer, isn't he, Lenka?