Literature Study GuidesWhite FangPart 2 Chapter 5 Summary

White Fang | Study Guide

Jack London

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White Fang | Part 2, Chapter 5 : Born of the Wild (The Lair) | Summary



After days of searching, the she-wolf finds a suitable cave in which to give birth: "It was dry and cosey. She inspected it with painstaking care, while One Eye ... stood in the entrance and patiently watched her." Hunger gnaws at One Eye, so he returns to the wild. The buzzing of a mosquito alerts him to a thaw, which means spring is coming. When One Eye returns hours later, he hears strange noises inside the cave. The she-wolf growls and bares her teeth, keeping One Eye at a "respectful distance." The she-wolf instinctively knows to keep her mate away from the cubs, although she doesn't quite understand why. One Eye poses no danger to his pups, however, and feels overwhelmed by the instinct to help. He tries to hunt down a porcupine, but it is too clever for him, and he eventually stumbles into a ptarmigan nest, greedily eating all the chicks. He also kills the mother ptarmigan, which he plans to bring back to the cave for his mate. On his way back, he spots a female lynx stalking the same porcupine he hunted earlier that day. The lynx attacks the porcupine, getting a face full of quills, and causes grievous injury to the porcupine. The injured lynx retreats to its cave, and One Eye waits for the porcupine to die from its injuries. When it finally dies, he drags the large meal back to the cave for his family.


Once the she-wolf has been impregnated, the wolves' natural instincts come into play. Without instruction, they know what needs to happen: She needs to find shelter and protect her cubs; he needs to find food and keep a clear distance from the cave. Rather than personify the wolves' thoughts individually, London describes the history of instinct: "In her instinct, which was the experience of all the mothers of wolves, there lurked a memory of fathers that had eaten their new-born and helpless progeny."

This chapter presents three different mothers: the wolf, the lynx, and the ptarmigan. All three mothers do their best to keep their offspring alive. Despite the cruel wild around them, the mothers are singularly focused on their young. Survival is no longer about themselves but about the next generation. The fight with the ptarmigan and the battle with the lynx over the porcupine again highlight that the fittest animals will win and that an animal also needs cunning—such as waiting for the lynx to attack the porcupine before claiming it—to survive.

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