Last December, I wrote an article about the three most important lessons from Jack London’s Call of the Wild. Since I have recently gotten around to finishing its spiritual sequel, White Fang, I have decided that I will address some interesting themes and ideas from this novel.
Much like Call of the Wild, White Fang often touches on the subjects of cruelty in nature, the usage of force and violence to solve problems, supremacy, and dominion. I will not waste your time merely rewriting commentary on these tenants. Instead, I will touch upon other themes that White Fang brings to light that also may be of interest and utility.
The Trade-Off Between Freedom and Security
Throughout the novel, the titular character often found himself struggling to adapt to the rules and laws of man. White Fang was a wild beast, used to living off of his own ability to fight for survival, often at the expense of his prey. However, in the world of Man (referred to as “gods” throughout the novel), there were rules to be obeyed, and the wild beast within had to be tamed. In exchange for following the whims of his various masters, White Fang was afforded their security and protection.
This theme can apply to humanity in modern society. We obey the laws and regulations of governments in order to be protected by them (at least in theory). We also give up hours of our day working jobs, obeying commands, and giving up the spirit of freedom that resides within us for the security of paychecks, benefits, and steady income. It is up to us to decide whether these trade-offs are worth it, but looking at things through the spyglass of reality, some of these trade-offs of servitude are inescapable for most of us.
Love in a Cruel World
There is no doubt about it: the world is an unfair, cruel, and often hostile place. When we are constantly subjected to this harsh reality, it is easy to become hard, hostile, and cruel ourselves. This certainly has happened to me personally, and while I cannot say that I have had to engage in physical fights on a daily basis in order to survive, I have viewed my life as a struggle against hostile forces. It follows that for much of my life, I have followed a path of hatred and malice, with anger, jealousy, and rage towards most other people.
Embarking upon a path of personal development has helped me to cautiously remove these shackles (of course, not completely letting my guard down) and open myself up to other opportunities in life. I hate to sound “blue-pill”, simpish, or mushy, but my girlfriend does offer me this love and support that makes me want to open my heart, just a little bit.
Of course, my mind will retain a hold on reality and all of the cruelty, barbarism, and strife that life can deal. We must not fall victim to believing that everyone loves us or has our best interests at heart, but instead, open just a little bit while still remaining capable of defending ourselves.
The Definition of Strength in Modern Society
Unlike Call of the Wild, where a domesticated dog gets back in touch with its wild roots, the story of White Fang follows a wolf-dog’s transition from being a wild beast to becoming domesticated and loyal to his master.
The raw strength and power of being physically dominant, or faster than his enemies was of little use for White Fang in the civilized world of “the Southland” (California’s Bay Area). Instead, obedience to the rules and forming a cohesive team with his master (or “love-god”) was more beneficial to him.
This raises the question of the real definition of strength in modern society. Although the primordial definitions of strength – the ability to physically dominate others and defend oneself from being dominated certainly still apply, there is strength in discipline and cohesion to a group. Civilization is maintained by the ability to execute force against outsiders and those within that would destroy its ability to function. It is also maintained by cohesion to rules and camaraderie, with the strong protecting and guiding the weak rather than oppressing them.
This takes us back to the first point made in this post. Both for the weak to willingly submit, and for the strong to lift the heel of oppression and a healthy, interdependent relationship rather than lording over or completely destroying those weaker than they, are forfeitures of complete freedom.
Like many of Jack London’s works, White Fang explores many themes of strength, masculinity, and freedom. It is a book that I wish that I had read in high school, but most of my teachers had us reading more feminine or “Leftist-friendly” literature. Having more masculine books in the mix probably would have lead me to learning more of life’s lessons at an earlier age.
If you have not read White Fang, I advise you to check it out on Amazon.
Teachers and students might also want to give the book a read, and maybe incorporate it into their educational curriculum.
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