Literature Study GuidesWhite FangPart 1 Chapter 1 Summary

White Fang | Study Guide

Jack London

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White Fang | Part 1, Chapter 1 : The Wild (The Trail of the Meat) | Summary



The novel opens on the desolate, frozen landscape of the Northland Wild in Canada around 1890. Two men mush a team of sled dogs pulling a coffin, which is the only movement or sign of life. One man, Henry, calls to his comrade, Bill, saying, "They're after us," referring to the pack of starving wolves stalking them. When the men stop to make camp for the night, Bill feels certain he fed seven dogs instead of six, suggesting one of the wolves has stolen fish. Over dinner, Bill and Henry discuss the body in the coffin, an aristocrat named Lord Alfred who didn't understand the wild's danger before heading on his trek. While discussing this danger, Bill realizes they're almost out of ammunition, with only three bullets left. Henry wishes it were three hundred, given the close proximity of the desperate wolves. The next morning, Bill and Henry rise to find that one of their dogs, Fatty, has gone missing. They assume the wolves have eaten the dog after he wandered off in the night.


The opening scenes of White Fang characterize the inhospitable, relentless landscape. Throughout the novel, nature is a powerful force. The overwhelming ferocity of nature creates an atmosphere of dread. London maintains this tone through his descriptions of frowning trees, "vast silence," and "the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild." The coffin, which Henry and Bill pull through the "black and ominous" night, is a constant reminder of death. London creates more suspense with the pack of desperate, starving wolves stalking the men, who are also nearly out of ammunition. Clearly, the men will have to be cunning to survive their journey, as the clever wolf has been, masquerading as one of the sled dogs to secure a meal.

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