White Fang

Book: By Jack London.

Inciting Event: After killing and eating a dog team and their mushers, the she-wolf Kiche chooses One-Eye for her mate and runs off with him.

Everything about this book’s structure is spot on, with the arguable exception of the First Act, the entirety of which functions as a prologue of sorts before we get to the main character of White Fang. However, even within this non-standard approach, London has perfectly timed his major turning points at the 12% mark, here, and the 25% mark.

First Plot Point: And finally, White Fang is born! His entry into the story here is literally an entry into the “adventure world” and certainly the most momentous turning point in the story up to this point. Still, in any other type of story this would far too late to introduce the protagonist.

First Pinch Point: Long after One-Eye and the other puppies have died in the famine, White Fang and Kiche are discovered by Kiche’s old Indian owners and returned to their camp. White Fang’s relationship with man and his inner conflict between domesticity and “the Wild” are the entire conflict of this story. As such, the often cruel master Grey Beaver certainly offers a “pinch” to White Fang’s previously uninhibited life in the Wild. However, in a story with better pacing in its First Act, this would probably have been better placed as the Inciting Event or even the First Plot Point, since this is where White Fang first leaves his Normal World.

Midpoint: After his mother is sold to an Indian in another camp, White Fang has the opportunity to escape Grey Beaver and return to the Wild. Once there, in a wonderfully plotted Moment of Truth, he is confronted with a deep inner conflict—two needs warring within him—and he finally and irrevocably decides to return to his master of his own free will. Nothing is the same in his life from this point on. He has chosen a path, and it will influence everything that happens to him in the second half of the story.

Second Pinch Point: A desperately alcoholic Grey Beaver sells White Fang to the brutish miner Beauty Smith, who desires White Fang’s ferocious fighting skills. He subjects White Fang to many beatings and uses him to win bets in the dog fights. Beauty’s ownership of White Fang is a wonderful pinch, as it is certainly the worst thing to happen to White Fang in his relationship with man up to this point—and a foreshadowing and setup for the low moment of the Third Plot Point.

Third Plot Point: After many victorious fights, White Fang finally encounters an opponent he cannot beat: a relentless little bulldog who nearly kills him. He is saved only by the mercies of a upper-class miner who intercedes on his behalf and forcibly purchases him from Beauty.

You wouldn’t think a dog would necessarily be able to fulfill the death/resurrection beats of the Third Plot Point and the subsequent rise into the Third Act. But White Fang does it beautifully. All but dead both physically and spiritually, he finds a symbolic salvation and restoration in his relationship with his new master Weedon Scott.

Climax: Against his better judgment Scott takes the now-devoted White Fang back home with him to California, where White Fang must complete his transformation into a domesticated animal living on the Scott family’s wealthy estate.

Climactic Moment: After being battered and shot protecting the family from a murderer, White Fang fully recovers. There is no remaining doubt about his integration into the world of man or his devotion to his masters.

Resolution: And as the final proof, he is introduced to the puppies he has sired with the family’s sheepdog: fully domesticated dogs.

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