John Griffith (Jack) London
January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916
Jack Griffith Chaney was born to a single mother, later taking his stepfather’s last name. His mother was a spiritualist and his biological father was a roving astrologer and lawyer. He struck out on his own at age 14, becoming a fisherman and hobo, even being jailed for vagrancy for a month. He won a writing competition at age 17, beating out competitors from Berkeley and Stanford. This inspired him to write more short stories. When he was 19, he crammed four years of high school study into one year so he could pass the entrance exams for Berkeley. He attended for one year before his financial situation forced him to drop out. He journeyed to the Klondike seek his fortune in the Gold Rush.
In 1897 at age 21 London sailed with his sister’s husband Captain Shepard to join the Klondike Gold Rush. It was the inspiration for his most successful stories, but his time there was harrowing. Without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, London developed scurvy, a common malady in the Yukon. His gums became swollen, and he lost his four front teeth. His face bore marks that reminded him of his illness in the Yukon for the rest of his life. He returned a year later, determined to make his living as a writer.
Jack London’s most famous works include The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories "To Build a Fire", "An Odyssey of the North", and "Love of Life". London died at age 60 in 1916 from dysentery, kidney problems, and late-stage alcoholism.
White Fang (1906)
White Fang is an adventure novel set in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. Jack London’s time in the Yukon inspired The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and some of his short stories. It is the story of a wolf-dog hybrid named White Fang who is captured and domesticated over the course of the story. Jack London wrote it as a companion novel to The Call of the Wild. If you want to know more about the setting for the book, click here for an article on the Klondike Gold Rush.
Questions for White Fang:
What is the law of the wild and how does it affect White Fang’s character as the story progresses?
How do White Fang’s owners differ from one another and what does White Fang learn from each?
How does White Fang’s suffering shape his character?
Why do you think this novel begins before White Fang is born?
What is “survival of the fittest” and how does the author use it in this novel?
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