Literature Study GuidesWhite FangPart 2 Chapter 7 Summary

White Fang | Study Guide

Jack London

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White Fang | Part 2, Chapter 7 : Born of the Wild (The Wall of the World) | Summary



The cub begins developing the "instinct of fear," which he understands to be a "restriction" of life, much like hunger. While his mother is out hunting, for example, he hears a strange sound outside the cave and smells a strange odor. He doesn't know it's a wolverine, but he recognizes the fear. One afternoon, feeling emboldened, the cub ventures toward the "white wall" (light) of the cave's entrance. Surprised when the wall doesn't prevent him from tumbling forward, the cub sprawls, bewildered, into the open. The light blinds him, and since he has no understanding of depth or distance, he crashes clumsily to the ground and "gazed about him, as might the first man of the earth who landed upon Mars." When the shock wears away, curiosity fills the cub as he scampers around exploring everything. He begins to classify objects as living or nonliving and to determine whether or not something might be food. He stumbles into a ptarmigan nest. Curious, he picks up a chick in his mouth and plays with it. A sense of hunger overwhelms him, and he clenches his jaws. The bird tastes like the meat his mother brings him, so he eats the entire brood. When the mother ptarmigan returns and attacks the cub, the instinct to fight fills him: "This was living, though he did not know it." The cub bests the mother ptarmigan but does not kill her because a hawk circles overhead, and the cub's instinct of fear returns. Before returning to the cave, the cub tumbles into a river, and he must fight against the moving water. He also spars with a mother weasel that bites his neck. The weasel latches on and threatens to kill the cub, but the she-wolf appears and saves him.


Natural instincts guide the cub as he learns to navigate the world. Most thrilling to the cub is his first battle: "He forgot all about the unknown. He no longer was afraid of anything." Fighting, and winning, makes the cub feel fulfilled, which foreshadows the cub's later success as a hunter and fighter. Perhaps because strong genes have been passed down through the generations, the cub is destined for greatness. Through all the cub's experiences in the outside world—the ptarmigan, the hawk, the weasel, and the river—he learns important lessons about survival that will serve him well later in life. He will never again mistake a running river for solid ground. Should he encounter a weasel again, he will never undermine its ferocity based on size. Although he learns quickly, the she-wolf must still save her cub from death during the fight with the weasel. The she-wolf provides companionship and education for the cub, and he learns the value of partnership. This lesson will become increasingly important as he navigates the world of domestication later in the novel.

This chapter provides a heartwarming characterization of the cub: He's playful, brave, inquisitive, and a quick learner. This characterization is important given the upheaval of his life once man becomes involved. When forced into companionship and a pack, the cub feels pulled between his instincts in the wild and the benefits of domestication.

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