White Fang: Novel Summary: IV.2 The Mad God

Although he is alone, it is not White Fangs fate to remain so, for he is noticed by a white trader, Beauty Smith. Smith especially enjoys watching the spectacle of White Fang fight new arrivals dogs, and he sets out to buy White Fang from Gray Beaver. Initially, Gray Beaver is not interested. Smith, however, introduces Gray Beaver to whiskey, and is able to trap him in addiction. Overcome by “thirst” for drink, Gray Beaver finally agrees to sell White Fang in exchange for bottles of alcohol. White Fang, still loyal to Gray Beaver, makes three escape attempts; each time, however, he receives terrible beatings, one the most severe of his life, and with Gray Beavers express approval.
London introduces a “foil” for White Fang in Beauty Smith, the ironically nicknamed, ugly white trader-ugly in terms of both appearance and temperament. In literature, a “foil” is a secondary character who highlights the distinctive traits of the main character, or protagonist, by either contrast or comparison. In this case, the comparisons are abundant. For example, London tells us that “Beauty Smith was aadvertisementmonstrosity”-just as White Fang is regarded by other dogs as a monster and a terror-but we are also told on several occasions that Beauty “was not responsible” for the way he is-that, in other words, his environment has molded and, really, misshapen the “clay” of his life the way White Fangs environment has molded and misshapen his. Readers may question whether Smith can so easily be exonerated of any responsibility for his cruelty and barbarism-he is, after all, a man and not a dog-but this question may point to a critique of Darwinistic thinking on Londons part.