The Concept of Nature and The Purpose of a Man in White Fang

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 905 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

Words: 905|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

Jack London's novel "White Fang" is a powerful exploration of the relationship between nature and humanity, portraying nature as a dark, ominous, and all-powerful force. London employs unique literary techniques such as imagery, symbolism, setting, and word choice to convey his perspective on the insignificance of human life when compared to the overwhelming power of nature.

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In the opening paragraph of "White Fang," London employs intense imagery to establish the novel's central themes. He describes the setting as a "vast silence" and a "desolation," emphasizing the lifelessness and stillness of the environment. This imagery is crucial in conveying London's belief in the ominous and unyielding nature of the wild. The silence and desolation serve as a backdrop against which the story unfolds, highlighting the constant struggle between humanity and the untamed wilderness.

London's portrayal of nature in "White Fang" stands in stark contrast to alternate depictions of nature in literature. For instance, modernist poet Katherine Mansfield presents a very different view of nature in her poem "A Very Early Spring." In her work, nature is depicted as vibrant, active, and full of life. She writes of "white clouds" and the "blue of the sky," portraying nature as beautiful and lively. In contrast, London's portrayal relies on imagery of stillness and silence to create a sense of lifelessness and foreboding. He personifies silence as a tangible force encroaching on the characters, contributing to the eerie atmosphere.

Symbolism plays a pivotal role in "White Fang" and is crucial to understanding the novel's themes. London introduces the symbol of the "narrow oblong box" early in the story, initially presented as a simple table and seat for the characters Bill and Henry. Only later do readers discover that this box contains the body of their friend, Lord Alfred. This coffin symbolizes the ongoing struggle between nature and humanity and its inevitable outcome. London writes, "On the sled, in the box, lays a third man whose toil was over—a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again." The narrow oblong box serves not only to reveal Lord Alfred's fate but also to foreshadow Bill's similar fate later in the novel.

Through Lord Alfred's demise and the symbolism of the oblong box, London infuses the novel with themes of death and nature's dominance over humanity. He emphasizes that the Wild seeks to eliminate movement and life, portraying nature as an unyielding force. This constant battle between nature and humanity is central to the story's message.

Additionally, the setting in "White Fang" serves as a vehicle that allows readers to fully grasp the imagery and themes presented in the novel. While London could have chosen any untamed location, he specifically selects the Alaskan wilderness. The novel was written in 1906, just three years before the successful discovery of the North Pole. At that time, the entire Arctic region was viewed as mysterious and untamed, enhancing the impact of London's imagery and reinforcing his underlying theme. The choice of the "savage, frozen-hearted, Northland Wild" as the setting adds depth to the story, underscoring the harshness and unforgiving nature of the environment.

London carefully selects his words to invoke the novel's themes. One word that stands out is "toil," which appears repeatedly in the first chapter of "White Fang." The use of "toil" serves multiple purposes. It can refer to the physical hardships that Bill and Henry endure in the Alaskan wilderness, as they are tired, hungry, and freezing. However, it also symbolizes the perpetual struggle between humanity and nature that permeates the story. London believed that life was marked by ceaseless toil, and only in death would this toil come to an end. This perspective is evident in the line, "On the sled, in the box, lays a third man whose toil was over." London's choice of the word "toil" is deliberate, conveying his viewpoint on the purpose of human existence.

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In conclusion, "White Fang" by Jack London offers a profound exploration of nature's dominance over humanity and the insignificance of human life in the face of the wild. Through the use of imagery, symbolism, setting, and word choice, London crafts a narrative that portrays nature as dark, ominous, and all-powerful. While contrasting with other literary depictions of nature, London's portrayal underscores the unyielding force of the wild. The setting in the Alaskan wilderness enhances the impact of the story, and his deliberate word choices contribute to the overall themes of the novel. "White Fang" serves as a compelling reflection of London's philosophy on nature and the human condition, making it impossible for readers to ignore the author's perspective, regardless of their own beliefs. This novel continues to captivate and challenge readers with its enduring themes and masterful literary techniques.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Concept of Nature and The Purpose of a Man in White Fang. (2018, May 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“The Concept of Nature and The Purpose of a Man in White Fang.” GradesFixer, 20 May 2018,
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