One of the recurring themes in “Wolfpack” is the idea of humanization and dehumanization, what is considered “human” and what is considered “animal.” Even the title of the piece introduces this dichotomy from the beginning. Verniece’s words “You are a person. God loves you. That’s it,”—to which she liberally alludes before revealing them to the reader—represents Verniece’s outlook on life (5). Verniece considers herself human and, therefore, an important being who deserves respect and self-worth, commenting that “those words kept the frowns and pointing fingers at a distance, and made it so I almost didn’t see the looks people gave us” (6). However, Luna introduces the idea that the division between humans and animals may not be as unambiguous as people think by saying, “The only real difference between people and animals is that people talk. That’s it” (9).
This dichotomy between human and animal sets up the dehumanization that occurs with the attack—first the man calling Verniece “elephant,” which, TaRonne explains, “was something different, like she wasn’t even human” (14). Afterwards, when the judge sentences the women to prison for defending themselves, Sha explains that the entire process of finding them guilty feels as though they are being stripped of their humanity, commenting “I wonder if either of them will ever know how hard it is to think human, to be human, when someone is threatening to knock, force, fuck the you out of you” (16). Finally, the newspaper’s disparagement of the women by calling them a “wolfpack” makes Verniece declare, “If I cannot be a a person I decide, then anything can be anything at all” (20). “Wolfpack’s” emphasis on the fine line between the human and the animal reveals how traumatizing and dehumanizing prejudice—especially against women attempting to defend themselves against an attacker—can be. This experience clearly not only damaged their lives, but their own self-images as well.