Beauty Smith treats White Fang with such cruelty that the dog becomes the enemy not only of his own kind but also “of all things.” Smith treats White Fang so cruelly in order that he can win money by pitting White Fang against other dogs in fights. White Fang becomes known as “The Fighting Wolf.” He defeats all other dogs due to his agility, his ferocity, and his experience. After he defeats a lynx, he faces no more fights-until a man named Tim Keenan comes to the camp and pits White Fang against his bulldog, Cherokee.
This chapter marks the nadir of White Fangs “devolution” (not Londons word) or “dehumanization.” London stresses that Beauty Smiths barbarous treatment of White Fang strips the dog of all reason: for example, “To such an extent was he tormented, that he hated blindly and without the faintest spark of reason.” White Fang is represented as, in effect, pure life force, unmediated by any kind of rationality; he fights not just because Beauty Smith forces him too, but because fighting is “the only way. of expressing theadvertisementlife that was in him.” Ironically, although White Fang is living among “civilized” men (see the following chapter, IV.4, for more on man as a “beast”), he is still struggling simply to survive as he would be in the Wild, even though “[l]ife had become a hell for him.” London thus makes a sad, poignant statement about the indomitable quality of life: it is capable of insisting on surviving even in the absence of pleasure, even in the absence of love. This quality may be what London means by referring to White Fangs “plasticity.” Life will find a way, even in the harshest of environments.