La Fête au bouc

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Mario Vargas Llosa

White Fang was born as a Grey wolf cub, and when he is born, the reader believes him to be all wolf. However, his mother, the she-wolf, is not actually all wolf. She is a wolf-dog hybrid, and she is not a wild dog, either. The early parts of the novel emphasize the wolf aspects of White Fang; his physical appearance, which is very wolf-like, is emphasized, along with the fact that he is able to survive when his more dog-like siblings cannot. However, when the she-wolf travels close to an Indian village, a man calls her name, Kiche. She goes to join the humans; and White Fang goes with her, and there he gets his name. Grey Beaver sells Kiche to another man, and White Fang attempts to leave with his mother. When he tries to follow her, Grey Beaver beats him. However, Grey Beaver is not a sadist; when White Fang obeys him, he treats him fairly. White Fang comes to look upon him as a god-like figure, even referring to him as God. They share a mutual respect, but no real affection.

White Fang quickly learns about the role that the master plays in a dog’s life when Grey Beaver sells White Fang to Beauty Smith. Beauty had been watching White Fang as he developed into a vicious fighting dog, and now sees an opportunity to make money off of him. When Grey Beaver begins to suffer from alcoholism, Beauty takes advantage of that weakness and jumps at the opportunity to get White Fang. Beauty beats and torments White Fang, not only because he is a sadistic man, but also to illicit more savage behavior from White Fang in order to increase his earnings from the dog. He manages to do so, and White Fang is a consistent winner in his dog fights, until a fight with a bulldog named Cherokee, who almost kills him. When Beauty Smith sees that White Fang has lost the fight and is dying, instead of trying to help his dog, he jumps up and begins to kick him. Weedon Scott intervenes, saving White Fang’s life and earning the dog’s loyalty. Scott buys him from Beauty Smith for $150 and becomes his new master.

White Fang does not show immediate loyalty to Weedon Scott. He has never had a positive experience with humans, so he does not yet trust Scott. However, he gradually comes to realize that Scott is not going to hurt him and becomes a very loyal pet. While many focus on Scott as the person to tame White Fang, it is important to realize that Matt, Scott’s employee, not only does an extensive amount of the work involved in taming White Fang, but actually intervenes when Scott is contemplating a mercy killing. However, once Matt convinces Scott that White Fang can be tamed, Scott is the one to earn his loyalty. When Scott plans to return to California, he determines that he will leave White Fang in the Klondike. Knowing that the dog will try to follow him, he locks White Fang in a cabin, not to be released until after Scott’s ship has departed. White Fang breaks free and gets onto Scott’s ship, where he is rewarded by being able to travel with Scott to California. Once there, he becomes the family pet, proving his loyalty by saving Scott’s father’s life.

Much of the story is told from White Fang’s perspective, through the use of a third-person narrator. White Fang considers his human masters to be gods, and the gods are frequently not benevolent. He learns early on in his life that it is necessary to submit to the gods, but he also learns that doing so brings beatings and mistreatment. He makes the initial decision to come in from the wild, even though he knows that in doing so he will get a beating from Grey Beaver. In this way, he firmly identifies as dog rather than wolf, which is similar to his mother Kiche, who returns to the Indian village and submits to Grey Beaver, despite having proven herself adept at living in the wilderness. This reveals a great deal about White Fang’s character; while he bristles at the mistreatment he has received from humans, he has not figured out a way to live without these gods.

When White Fang decides that he can trust Scott, he becomes very loyal to him. Then, when Scott disappears for a trip, White Fang is utterly lost. It is important to keep in mind that to White Fang, these humans are gods, and Scott is his personal god. Therefore, Scott’s disappearance has a dramatic meaning for White Fang. When he knows that Scott is going to disappear again, he begins to protest days before Scott actually departs for California. It reminds White Fang of when he left the Indian village, only to return and find Grey Beaver no longer there.

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