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Red Dog vs. White Fang

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Introduction

A comparison of the ways by which both novels represent the relationships formed between humankind and canis lupus/canis familiaris. It is often said that a dog is man's best friend. 'White Fang' and 'Red Dog' both explore this concept in different ways; London's 'White Fang' agrees with the notion by using a half-dog, half-wolf as the main character. White Fang is not easily tamed but eventually, after much cajoling and human influence, he is persuaded to become 'man's best friend'. Red Dog, however, is much his own character and enjoys both the solitary travelling life and the companionship of humans. An interesting cultural point is that 'canis lupus' is often feared and has been wiped out in many countries, whereas 'canis familiaris' are often preferential as pets than many other animals and generally generate a lot of affection from the surrounding humans. This could affect the differences between how the relationships are portrayed in White Fang and Red Dog. In De Berni�res' novel, a significant episode occurs when Red Dog meets John, 'the only person to whom he ever belonged'. All John does is shake Red Dog's paw and they are both smitten. This is a realistic account of how animals seem to 'choose' their owner, rather than be chosen, rather like humans select their friends. It is almost like them choosing a pack-leader in the wild. The relationship that Red Dog has made when he meets John is one for life, and he really is John's best friend. We can also see this in 'White Fang' when White Fang's life is saved by Weedon Scott. By saving White Fang from the most hated human being that ever appeared in his life, it inspires devotion from the wolf-dog and a tendency to howl when Weedon is away on business. ...read more.

Middle

This illustrates another aspect of the dog and human relationship. A parallel can be found with the writings of Nietzsche, who was writing at the same time as London, on this point, by focussing on Nietzsche's opinions why saints are 'revered' and respected. Nietzsche felt that by admiring the saints, we are often admiring aspects of ourselves, or wishing that we had their virtues and power. Seen in this light, Beauty Smith is coveting White Fang because he desires his strength and ferocity, and punishing him because he sees something negative in the wolf's fierceness that is much like his own, and is making White Fang suffer for what he highlights about Smith's very own nature. Here, White Fang plays saint to Smith's ordinary person, which is similar to how domestic dogs are put on a pedestal in the 21st century. London's constant repetition of the name 'love-master' from the perspective of White Fang is also significant in this analysis, and is significant in its use for Wheedon Scott. The word 'love-master' isn't used in common English, and appears to be a word of London's creation. The use of this compound noun emphasises White Fang's love for his master, by producing a new word to illustrate how serious White Fang's admiration really is. London always precedes 'love-master' with the word 'the', which highlights the singularity of the wolf's love. London even uses 'The Love-master' as a chapter title, which lends even more importance to Weedon Scott. De Berni�res employs a different method in separating the master from the crowd of acquaintances. Although separating such a short piece of work into sections seems strange, the main purpose of the separation is to provide a clear definition between 'having John' and 'after John'. ...read more.

Conclusion

White Fang seems to be forced into obeying those who 'own' him, which is ironic in that he is much more dominated than Red Dog. Red Dog, however, only 'belongs' to John, but although he has his freedom, he chooses to help those who need his comforting figure. In reviews of Red Dog it is easy to find how the relationships in the book affect relationships between the reader and their pet. Kathryn Flett says that it will 'make you highly indulgent towards the one you love'. This is not only an example of how the storyline has affected the audience, but also a case in point of how realistic Red Dog is when taking advantage of anyone 'generous with food'. Humans tend to be highly indulgent towards anything under their care, and pets are an obvious example of when this happens. To summarise the relationship between canis familiaris and canis lupus and the human race, as portrayed in these two books, it is obvious that they both have very realistic elements in that they both show a lot of the same characteristics in describing the relationships. This means that the dogs (and domesticated wolves), that the authors based their 'idea' of the main character upon must have similar characteristics, and similar ways of reacting to humankind. Although there are some differences, I think, overall, in exploring the topic (using two books), it has helped to show just how complex the relationship is, with dogs showing protective instincts, loyalty and the ability to choose a favourite. We can also see that, through the similarities between White Fang and Red Dog (of which there are many) that the canis family is similar, no matter if it is the domestic dog, or the domesticated wolf. ...read more.

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