White Fang: Novel Summary: II.1 The Battle of the Fangs

The chapters title refers to the conflict among three male wolves in the pack-a gaunt old leader wolf (whom the narrator refers to as “One Eye”); a younger, large gray wolf, also a leader; and a three-year-old-who “court” the she-wolf, competing for her as a mate. Procreation is, of course, survival of the species, and so the interplay among these four wolves takes on great import against the background of the relentlessly life-challenging Wild. The wolves can only pay attention to mating, however, once the need for food has been met. The downing of a bull moose affords meat and continued life for the pack, and then the “courtship” begins in earnest. The three-year-old falls first, a victim of the young leading wolfs fangs; in his carelessness after that battle, however, the younger wolf falls prey to One Eye, who proceeds to become the she-wolfs mate.
As the days pass, the she-wolf becomes restless, searching for a safe place to deliver her litter. One night, One Eye and the she-wolf come near an Indian camp. The she-wolf responds instinctively, feeling a desire to draw closer to the fire and the people. Clearly, she has not forgotten that she was once tamed, to some degree, and belonged to the world of humans. One Eye, for his part, hangs back entirely, never having been domesticated. Ultimately, the pair does not approach the camp, but moves on in search of an appropriate lair, robbing human trappers snares for food as they do.
Having looked at the quest for survival from a human perspective in Part I, London now turns to look at the same struggle from the perspective of the wild animal. Readers may profitably reflect, throughout the novel, on what lessons, if any, London may be trying to impart through the juxtaposition of these two perspectives, for they will notice much to remind humans of their own animal nature. For example, we are given occasion to think about our own obedience to the “hierarchy of needs” (psychologist Maslows term, not Londons) when we read, “They [i.e., the wolves] might have fought [over the she-wolf], but even wooing and its rivalry waited upon the more pressing hunger-need of the pack.” Or readers might pause to think of the human saying, “Alls fair in love and war,” when they read that the three-year-old wolf and the younger leading wolf had often been allies, but are now divided over the she-wolf: “Forgotten were the days they had hunted together, the game they had pulled down, the famine they had suffered.advertisementThat business was a thing of the past. The business of love was at hand.”
London introduces another kind of love into his narrative in this chapter: the love of a beast for its master. Note how the she-wolf experiences “wistfulness” and “desire” as she sees the Indian camp. The story of the she-wolfs past with humans is as unknown to readers at this point as it is to One Eye, but we are being prepared to read about the love between dog and man that will occupy much of the rest of the novel.