Thursday, December 11, 2008 By: Suzanne

Jack London

I drive a lot for work and get bored with listening to the radio after a while. A lot of times I'll listen to audiobooks but they're so expensive that I haven't listened to one in a while. So I was happily surprised when I found White Fang and The Call of the Wild on audio for $4 apiece at Half Price Books. If you are not familiar with this store, I am very sorry. It's absolutely wonderful (but not near as wonderful as our own Recycled Books here in Denton - I really love that store).

So I remember reading The Call of the Wild when I was kid and I think I saw a movie on White Fang at some point in my life but they're both very fuzzy and needless to say I had the two confused in my head. Well, maybe not confused but merged is the better word. I had somehow remembered a wild half-wolf dog that was captured and tortured to fight other dogs then rescued and taught be a sled dog who eventually went back to the wild. Yeah. Just remember it had been a long time.

After listening to the two back to back, I believe that The Call of the Wild is my favorite of the two simply because I'm not fond of the narrative in White Fang. The narrator keeps referring to people as "gods" in White Fangs eyes. Also, he sees power as coming from material possessions. This is a human qualification and I have never seen animals give deference to another animal because of possessions. They base power on strength. It is possible with some animals that the leader may have access to more food and other possessions but that is because he/she is ALREADY leader. Those things do not make the leader. So, because the wolf apparently sees materials possessions as power he sees white people as being superior to all others. See where I'm going here? Very irritating.

Ok, here's another problem: inconsistency. I realize these are different stories but they both concern sled dogs at some point. In The Call of the Wild, the sled dogs regard the lead sled dog with deference and treat him as leader in all other aspects of life. In White Fang, the other dogs view the lead dog as running away from them and therefore a coward to be tormented. The lead dog must sit with the people in order to be protected. WHAT??!! I don't know anything about sledding but I know about dogs and this simply doesn't make sense. The Call of the Wild was written first so maybe he discovered something that I don't know about. I tried to find some other reviews to see if there was any mention of this but all I could find were school papers and descriptions of the book. Anyone know where I can find good critiques not written by 6th graders?

Ok, so I didn't completely dislike White Fang. I was irritated by those things but the storyline is very good. I was surprised when I found out it was written after The Call of the Wild because it seems a little more rough. It reads like a first book, where The Call of the Wild seems more polished. In both books I really enjoyed the interplay between the main characters and the other dogs. The dogs seemed more real than the people. This makes complete sense, since the story is told from the point of view of the dog. The other dogs would be the ones that Buck and White Fang knew the best. London accomplishes this very well. I also enjoyed the exchange between Buck and Thornton and White Fang and Scott. Being an animal lover and having dogs all my life, I know the power of the love from an animal. I was impressed by how Scott won over White Fang. His devotion to Scott reminds me of my boyfriend's dog, Skillet, who treats Jeff as if he hung the moon and my dog, Loki, who treats me the same way. Both of these dogs were rescued also. There seems to be something that happens to a dog who is rescued and loved that makes them more devoted than a dog who comes to you as a puppy, like my other dog, Aurora. She obviously loves me and I love her very much but Loki and Skillet become visibly upset just being out of our presence. I was also impressed that Buck remained with Thornton even when he wanted to be free simply because he loved this man. Many people may say this is anthropomorphizing, that animals can't love like this. I say they have never given themselves to an animal enough to feel that love.


Andrea Aponte said...

I have to agree with you that dogs usually let the alpha go first and aren't so stupid as to think the first dog is running away from them if they're all tied to a sled. In fact, I heard an animal behaviorist on NPR say that when dogs are chasing eachother there is no social class significance as far as who is the chaser and who is the chasee.
Rescued dogs. I sometimes wonder if rescued dogs just think that their particualr human is exceptional because all the humans they knew before were so unkind. Dogs you get as puppies think that their humans are great, but tend to pretty much think most humans are great because all they've known is kindness from human beings.