Literature Study GuidesWhite FangPart 3 Chapter 9 Summary

White Fang | Study Guide

Jack London

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White Fang | Part 3, Chapter 9 : The Gods of the Wild (The Makers of Fire) | Summary

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Summary

While exploring the wild one day, the cub happens upon a group of Indian men sitting around a fire. It is his "first glimpse of mankind." Immediately, the cub feels respect for them, a respect born into "centuries of struggle and the accumulated experience of the generations." One man walks confidently over and picks up the cub, who is instantly paralyzed by fear. The cub snaps out of his paralysis and begins to fight, sinking his teeth into the man's hand. The men laugh as the bitten man beats the cub in retaliation. Hearing the cries, the she-wolf bounds into the circle to save her cub. The cub watches, mesmerized, as one of the Indians, named Gray Beaver, calls the she-wolf "Kiche" and calms her: "The cub saw his mother ... crouching down till her belly touched the ground, whimpering, wagging her tail, making peace signs." It becomes clear that the she-wolf, Kiche, once belonged to the Indian man, but she ran away when the famine arrived. The Indians decide to take Kiche and the cub—whom they refer to as White Fang for his sharp teeth—back to their camp.

That evening is the first White Fang spends in human company. He is wary of the Indian men and their hands, which bring pain when they strike him, but they occasionally stroke and tickle him, which he finds comforting. The rest of the Indians' dogs are less welcoming, snapping and growling when White Fang comes near. Some of the dogs attack White Fang, but the men beat back the jealous dogs, further earning White Fang's respect: "He knew [the men] for what they were—makers of law and executors of law." The men tie Kiche and White Fang to sticks, which they use to lead the wolves back to camp. There, White Fang is exposed to the everyday hubbub of human life, which he finds both amazing and terrifying. There is another cub in the pack—Lip-lip—whom White Fang is eager to befriend, but Lip-lip snarls and attacks White Fang, showing his dominance: "It was the first of the many fights he was to have with Lip-lip, for they were enemies from the start."

Analysis

The cub—now known as White Fang—meets man for the first time by the Indian campfire. Although living alongside humans had been hinted at before—the rabbits in the snare, for example, and Kiche's longing looks toward camp when pregnant—White Fang does not interact with man until now. Immediately, man shows his dominance over White Fang by simply picking him up, laughing, and setting him down closer to the fire. Man's boldness both angers White Fang and earns his reverence. Clearly, an animal that can control fire should be respected. Kiche responds immediately to being reunited with the tribe, crouching and showing her subservience. White Fang doesn't understand these displays until Gray Beaver beats him into submission. Just like with his mother, White Fang learns lessons through pain, avoiding certain actions or behaviors to avoid "the hurt." Humans have few options other than violence to tame a wolf. As Bill proved in Chapter 3, man is no match for a wild wolf in a one-on-one fight. Man must use other tools, like clubs, to display his dominance.

Kiche's easy return to the tribe shows her ability to straddle two worlds, wild and domestic. Her warm welcome suggests she had value in the tribe and that she had been missed. Despite being able to live peacefully with man, the she-wolf never lost her natural abilities to hunt and thrive in the wild. White Fang must learn the same delicate balance now that he has been introduced to man. The benefits of living with humans are safety, companionship, shelter, and food. The trade-off for these comforts is the freedom and joy White Fang felt in the wild, no matter the hardships.

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