The child in wolf’s clothing: the meanings of the ‘wolf’ and questions of identity in Jack London’s White Fang
Walsh, S. (2013) The child in wolf’s clothing: the meanings of the ‘wolf’ and questions of identity in Jack London’s White Fang. European Journal of American Culture, 32 (1). pp. 55-77. ISSN 1758-9118
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1386/ejac.32.1.55_1
The criticism of Jack London’s work has been dominated by a reliance upon ideas of the ‘real’, the ‘authentic’ and the ‘archetypal’. One of the figures in London’s work around which these ideas crystallize is that of the ‘wolf’. This article will examine the way the wolf is mobilized both in the criticism of Jack London’s work and in an example of the work: the novel White Fang (1906). This novel, though it has often been read as clearly delimiting and demarcating the realms of nature and culture, can be read conversely as unpicking the deceptive simplicity of such categories, as troubling essentialist notions of identity (human/animal, male/female, white/Indian) and as engaging with the complexity of the journey in which a ‘small animal … becomes human-sexual by crossing the infinite divide that separates life from humanity, the biological from the historical, “nature” from “culture” ’ (Althusser 1971: 206).