Notes on White Fang Themes

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White Fang Topic Tracking: Instinct

Instinct 1: The she-wolf has no memory of ever seeing a father eat his children, but she refuses to let the father near. Something has warned her that her cubs could be in danger, and for the she-wolf, this will always be her top priority. It seems unlikely that One Eye would eat the cubs, yet she will not risk letting him near until she is certain that the cubs are safe from harm.

Instinct 2: The wall of light in the cave is a barrier through which the little gray cub must break. At this point, the cub does not even know that this wall is different than the others besides its color.He has no idea that it is an entrance. Despite this, he is driven towards the light. The warmth and sight of it beckon to him. His mother curbs this instinct for as long as she can.

Instinct 3: The cub knows the wall of light is more than just a wall; both his mother and father have passed through it. He knows that his mother does not want him to break it, and that she will be mad at him if he does. Despite this, the urge to break it grows to a point at which it can no longer be ignored. In order to follow this and continue growing, he must go through the wall of light.

Instinct 4: The cub has no understanding about danger from the water itself, and he is not warned that the river is not solid. However, his fear of the unknown is strong, and that is strengthened by his experience with the water. He is hurt by the river, and by his naive thought that the river was solid. His distrust of the unknown seems to be strengthened by this experience.

Instinct 5: The cub recognizes man as superior not only because of his use of tools and fire, but also because of instinctual knowledge passed down to him from his ancestors.

Instinct 6: White Fang is not really a domesticated dog. He is three-quarters wolf, and as such his wolf instincts are stronger than his dog instincts. He recognizes the Indians as superior beings, and gives over to their mastery, but there are certainly parts of him that wish to be back in the Wild. As a wolf, he wants hunt and to live in the Wild, therefore his life among the dogs of the Indian camp is contrary to his instinct. He seems caught between two worlds, the camp and the Wild, as well as between two lives: the wolf and the domesticated dog.

Instinct 7: Respect for females seems instinctual to male wolves. White Fang comes upon his mother, Kiche, which triggers memories in him. However, Kiche acts from a deeper instinct, trying to protect her litter of cubs. She slashes at White Fang and, indeed, seems not to remember him at all. Despite this, he does not retaliate. He knows on some level that females must be protected in order to have healthy young cubs.

Instinct 8: As White Fang leads the dogs pulling the sled, he is at war with himself. He knows that Mit-sah does not want him to turn around, and that he will enforce this with the whip. However, he desperately wants to turn around and defend himself against all the dogs running behind him, chasing at his tail.

Instinct 9: The dogs of Fort Yukon know that White Fang is a wolf from the Wild, and that means he is their enemy. None of them really know anything about the Wild, but they are born with hatred for it and for the unknown dangers in it. Because of this, they attack White Fang viciously.

Instinct 10: In this passage, Weedon Scott is attempting to tame White Fang after long abuse by Beauty Smith. Although White Fang has certainly been affected by the abuse, his need to bite Scott's hand seems to be a natural reaction in some ways. Something approaching the head area, like a hand, obviously means an attack to White Fang.

Instinct 11: White Fang needs to follow his master, whom he loves, and yet he cannot harm Collie. She is a female, and hurting her seems to be something his instincts forbid. He finally chooses to simply knock her over and run off to pursue his real goal - Scott.

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