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Essay on White Fang

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The portrayal of the child figure is represented in the three novels Black Beauty, The Jungle Books, and White Fang. The use of this motif allows the audience to view the transformation of “children” into mature beings. In these novels, we watch Black Beauty, Mowglii, and White Fang grow from unshaped, unknowing beings primarily through the guidance of character who are not even their real parents but serve as mother figures. These characters (Beauty, Mowglii, and White Fang) learn the “rules” of their environment from many different characters and sources throughout the novel. These experiences (both positive and negative) in which they utilize what they know and grow from their mistakes (or misfortunes) are what helps in the rearing and guidance of the child figures on their path of learning.

In all three novels, the reader is introduced to the child figures (Black Beauty, Mowglii, and White Fang) really at the beginning of their life. The only possible exception here is that you don’t know initially where Mowglii came from but this introduction is at the beginning of his life in the jungle. This portrayal of the child allows that reader to see them as the naпve clean slates they are, waiting for guidance and education. In Black Beauty, Beauty is portrayed from birth as a valuable addition to the farm and is named for his striking appearance. This ideal impression of the child figure conveys to the reader that although things are good now for this little colt, he will inevitably face hardships during his transformation that will shape him into a truly valuable being. In The Jungle Books, Mowglii is initially portrayed as a happy-go-lucky man cub who isn’t intimidated the least by his new surroundings. This confidence and fearlessness sets the scene for the leader that Mowglii will become at the end of his transformation into adulthood. After being accepted into the wolf pack, he is nicknamed “frog”. This title is representative of the changes he will undergo throughout his adventures. It clearly indicates that Mowglii will become a new being. In the novel White Fang, White Fang is introduced almost immediately as the strongest of the litter.

This child figure representation is yet again one that predicts the future of the being. This portrayal of White Fang as strong, aggressive and independent carries through to his adulthood as he gains the reputation for being one of the most savage dogs of the North. The difference here between The Jungle Books and White Fang is the initial portray of white Fang is not reflective of the mature caring dog he becomes. It is interesting to note here that although it seemed White Fang’s fate to become a savage wild beast, he in the end becomes a domesticated house pet with the proper compassion and guidance from his determined master, Weedon Scott.

In these three novels, each of the characters portraying the child figure is educated about the ways of their world not only verbally, but also by their life experiences (or predicaments). In Black Beauty, Beauty really doesn’t face much of the conflict or harsh realities of the world outside his rosy picture. His seems to represent a protected child initially. He notices how his barn mate, Ginger, misbehaves and wonders how she could that way with such a giving and caring master. He is at the immature point in his life where he doesn’t realize that there is life outside of his own homestead. Even when Ginger tells Beauty of some of her life experiences and how they have shaped the “person” that she is today, Beauty can only sympathize. He cannot be fully affected by these realities until he, himself is exposed to them. Although he has had second hand exposure from Gingers tales, he cannot learn the lessons and change as a being unless he experiences life for himself. In The Jungle Books, Mowglii is protected by Bagheera, the black panther, and is taught the laws of the jungle by Baloo, the brown bear. Although it seems Mowglii is equipped with what he needs to make it in his new world, he faces many dangers of which only he can attempt to avoid. Mowglii has been provided the information of right and wring in the jungle, now it is up for this child to use his smarts to survive. After all, he is sought after by the jungle bully, Shere Khan, who wants Mowglii dead if for no other reason but to regain some of his own pride. The audience sees Mowglii’s transformation as a naпve child to an aggressive member of his society to a compassionate leader of his own people. This only occurs after the child figure obeys the laws of the jungle and utilizes what he has learned.

In White Fang, the transformation of the child figure from a savage wolf to a civilized dog is remarkable. White Fang was reared to fend for himself. Although he also had this innate sense as he is three-quarters wolf, he was surrounded by experiences (whether it was famine or brutal fights) that taught him that it was the way of the wild to “eat or be eaten”. It seemed throughout most of this novel this “wild child” had no chance of ever being tamed. Ironically, it is the harsh environments that White Fang is exposed to (by the way of Gray Beaver and Beauty Smith), that help him in his transformation from the aggressive wolf to the house pet. Through the harsh guidance of Gray Beaver, White Fang learns obedience, work ethic and loyalty to his master, traits he would have never acquired if he had just lived in the wild. It is arguable, however, that White Fang didn’t necessarily need to be subjected to such harsh treatments become the Beloved Wolf. On the other hand, these experiences allowed him to appreciate the care he received from his most humane master, Weedon Scott. It is after all, through the patience, understanding, and dedication of Scott that White Fang evolves from a savage wild child into a domestic family dog.

Children are a product of their environment. This explanation is used even today to describe why people behave the way that they do. This idea is present in the novels discussed previously as well as in other works of 19th century children’s literature. You see in “The Little Match Girl” from Andersen’s Fairy Tales, how the poor pathetic child is reduced to keeping herself warm by lighting the matches that she is supposed to be selling. This account is a direct reflection of the pathetic world she was raised in. This exploitation of the child results in her untimely death. In The Waterbabies, it is how this idea is portrayed. Initially, Tom wants to be just like his miserable master, as that is all that he knows. Through his transformation under water, be becomes a product of a better environment. Also in Wilde’s “The Ugly Duckling”, the duckling feels ugly and doesn’t fit in because of the environment around him. Although he is just different than the others, he is led to believe that he is a horrific creature. He truly believes that he is a monstrosity of a sight and this is only because of the influences in his immediate environment. It isn’t until he steps out of his negative surroundings that he finally realizes what he truly is.

In the three novels, Black Beauty, The Jungle Books, and White Fang, the child figures portrayed are inevitably products of their environment. You can watch each character grow and change with each new experience and set of surroundings. You can see how just the slightest actions or just a few words shape the adult beings that each character becomes. What a better world we would live in if everyone realized that the actions and voices can forever change the life of another being, whether it be human or animal.

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Jan 24, 2011

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