First of all, a confession. I was, like, one of a teeny handful of girls my age who didn’t care for horses. Everyone was all about Black Beauty and the Black Stallion, and tons of other horseback-riding paperbacks, and I was all, “Eh. I’ll take dolphins” (Misty of Chincoteague was not half bad, but I liked the story, not the horses). Ergo, I thought Black Beauty was a horribly depressing book, and no amount of horse porn could redeem that book for me. I realize it’s very important to raise awareness about the maltreatment of animals, but reading about it feels me with unbelievable distress.
After finishing White Fang and discarding The Call of the Wild prior, I have only this to say: Jack London is the Black Beauty of dog-writers, and I DO NOT APPRECIATE IT.
White Fang opens with two men on a sled conveying a man of some nobility who has died in his coffin back to civilization. And slowly, their dogs get picked off and eaten by wolves. One man tries to go after them with a shotgun, and all we hear is that he doesn’t return. Really, Jack? REALLY? You give us gory descriptions of dogfighting, and yet you can’t say candidly that a man was eaten by wolves? The WTFery just continues from there. One of the wolves, the she-wolf (in the closet) turns out to be White Fang’s mother. We hear about his puppyhood and his mother’s submission to Gray Beaver, an indigenous man, and the struggles of submission to Gray Beaver. White Fang, a wild 3/4 wolf, struggles to survive in the nasty pack of dogs. And then, at the apex of his existence, Gray Beaver is tricked out of ownership to a terrible man named Beauty Smith and White Fang is turned into a fighting dog. It’s truly awful, and not even the resolution can make me forget about the dogfighting scenes.
Jack London has some interesting commentary on the nature of human kindness and on the effects our poor or fair treatment of less fortunate creatures can have long-term effects for both good and ill. But it’s kind of hard to wade through, sometimes.