Every now and then, you read a book that transcends time and place. A book that separates itself from the social propaganda and speaks to us about the wonder of the natural world.
White Fang by Jack London is that kind of book. Long forgotten by our culturally subversive schools, the book deserves a noble return. It should replace the many books that are currently polluting the minds of our children: Death of a Salesman, Song of Solomon, etc. The only solution to cultural poisoning, of course, is home schooling your child; that way you can choose the books that will build a noble spirit in your offspring. If you are home schooling your child, then I recommend that you add White Fang to your list.
The novel is told from the perspective of a dog: a half-wolf, wild in its behavior. The dog struggles to find its place in the world—hated by other dogs, mistreated by cruel humans, scourging for food in the Alaskan wild. We come to root for the wild dog, hoping that he’ll find a loving home and master.
The book provides the reader with simple but noble truth…
Man is Godlike
The story does a good job of describing White Fang’s reverence for the humans that look over them: whether it’s the “love master” Weedon Scott, or the mean-spirited Beauty Smith (a great name, by the way). I told the barista at the Starbucks today to write Beauty Smith on my cup, because I liked it so much.
London brings the magic of the dog’s world to life. By doing this, he creates a PETA argument far more effective than Sarah Mclaghlin commercials. We feel for White Fang, for his plight in the world, for the nobility of his species. We root for him to overcome his obstacles. In turn, our sympathy for the animal kingdom grows in a very real way, as opposed to a pathos manipulation.
London points out a unique irony; that for the dog, the idea of “God” is tangible and exists in the form of man:
- “To man has been given the grief, often, of seeing his gods overthrown and his altars crumbling; but to the wolf and the wild dog that have come in to crouch at man’s feet, this grief has never come. Unlike man, whose gods are of the unseen and overguessed, vapors and mists of fancy eluding the garmenture of reality, wandering wraiths of desired goodness and power, intangible outcroppings of self into the realm of spirit – unlike man, the wolf and the wild dog that have come into their fire find the gods in the living flesh, solid to the touch, occupying earth-space and requiring time for the accomplishment of their ends and their existence.
You’ll be moved by this book. I must admit that when White Fang is about to be separated from Weedon Scott (his benevolent master) I felt a rise of sentimental emotion. Anybody that has ever cared for a dog can relate to the feeling, that special bond that forms between human and canine. I reflected back to when I had to put a little pooch I owned to sleep. I was genuinely sad. Call it cheesy, call it corny…but it was real. I actually shed a tear for that animal.
White Fang makes us realize our unique place in the world—king of the animals. How we have risen above all the other species. How we use the trees, rivers and wind to do our bidding. And how amazing that fact is. We’ve taken an inhospitable environment and fashioned it in our image. In many ways, we are Gods! The book champions the human race as much as it does the canine one. We realize how incredible our development has been, considering the harsh world that we rose out of.
Ignorance is Linked to Magic
London repeatedly talks of the dog’s reverence for the human, for man’s ability to conduct magic. This is evidenced when, for example, White Fang is taken to San Francisco and he witnesses the busy city: its contraptions, cars, etc. The dog is stupefied, calling all that he doesn’t understand “magic.”
Everywhere White Fang goes, he comes upon the magic of the humans. He bows to it, noting the superiority of its creation. It’s a reminder of how we look in the eyes of other animals, how our technology leaves them in a state of subservient bewilderment. How they must bow to our world, one they realize is greater on an intrinsic level.
- “Food and fire, protection and companionship, were some of the things he received from the god. In return, he guarded the god’s property, defended his body, worked for him, and obeyed him.”
I thought about the idea of “magic” as I read the story, how it’s linked to the unknown. It’s funny that many people use this thinking when speaking of relationships—the “magic” is gone from their marriage, for example. What they really mean is that the mystery is gone, that the other person has been laid bare. How to rekindle the magic? That’s a good question. At any rate, the idea of magic is an important one. And it’s something that is closely related to our spirituality and belief in God.
In recent years, I’ve grown very skeptical of pet ownership—watching Americans humanize their pets, while simultaneously mistreat others, has left a bad taste in my mouth. The stereotypical cat lady who dotes over her felines, but treats the mailman like garbage, is something that I cannot support.
So White Fang was a welcome respite. It’s feels good to get back into the good graces of the animal kingdom and, in particular, to be reminded of the good in the domesticated dog. I won’t be running out to Pet Smart anytime soon, but my animus towards pet ownership has waned a bit.
Pick up White Fang. I imagine you will have to order a hard copy via Amazon, but you won’t regret it. It’s a novel that’s very worthy of your bookshelf.