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Essay outline on to build a fire by jack london

  • Being placed in this type of environment is the main conflict of the story for both the main character and the dog;
  • The old-timer, who is named as such by the man, has already imparted his greater knowledge of the area and how to travel in it before the story begins;
  • The effects of the cold are given the majority of the space and this emphasizes how dangerous it is as well as showing the arrogance of the man in presuming he would be able to travel this distance without a human companion;
  • When the fire he builds is extinguished by snow, and he still needs to get dry, the title becomes an urgent command as he knows he is facing death if he fails to re-build it;
  • Unlike the other characters, London has the man die at the end of the story to illustrate that he dies because of his arrogance in his ability to travel alone;
  • Relying only on his judgment, the man can not prepare to prevent a disaster from occurring.

What merit editors find in it, I can only speculate; but I imagine that it is admired as a fine example of a suspenseful story with a strong theme presented in vivid, realistic detail. All this, of course, it is; and it is interesting to recall in this connection that, aside from the death of the protagonist, the story treats of precisely the range of experience that London himself had had in the northland.

Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” -Analysis Essay

Valid as it is, however, an interpretation which halts at the careful contrivance of suspense, a strong theme—by which is meant, I suppose, the primitive struggle for survival—and precise, realistic details cannot explain the appeal of the story, which, like all serious fiction, hints at a depth and richness of meaning below the level of literal narration. To put the discussion into context, let me summarize the story even if its great popularity guarantees that most readers are familiar with it.

  1. How to cite this page Choose cite format. All this, of course, it is; and it is interesting to recall in this connection that, aside from the death of the protagonist, the story treats of precisely the range of experience that London himself had had in the northland.
  2. When he fails in his attempts to build a fire to dry himself, he dies. The man never took the proper precautions because he never thought of how to cope with a deadly situation.
  3. But I wish to consider here the journey itself, presented in the first sentence of the story in a passage that is both rhetorically impressive and charged with implication.
  4. The necessity of building a fire is the driving force of the latter stages of this short story because without fire, the man knows that he will freeze once his feet and legs are wet. Relying only on his judgment, the man can not prepare to prevent a disaster from occurring.

A man, whose name is not given, is traveling alone, except for an almost wild dog as companion, in the far north in the dead of winter. Although aware of the dangers of the journey, the man is confident.

To Build a Fire, Jack London - Essay

He is alert and careful; but even so he accidentally breaks through the surface of a frozen stream and gets his feet wet. When he fails in his attempts to build a fire to dry himself, he dies.

His wolf-dog companion leaves the body to seek food and warmth with the dead man's companions waiting in camp. The fable unfolds as a journey taken in the face of serious danger in which the conflicts between man and nature and between man and dog provide the drama.

But I wish to consider here the journey itself, presented in the first sentence of the story in a passage that is both rhetorically impressive and charged with implication: Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earthbank, where a dim and little-traveled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland.

The very rhythms of the passage reinforce the meaning. The journey thus brilliantly announced is, as I have implied, more than a literal journey, although the hard, realistic surface of the narrative may obscure what ought to be obvious.

  1. The focus rests mainly on the man, the dog and their surroundings. Not being concerned with anything somewhat inventive, the man put himself in a position to anticipate death.
  2. The ability to build a fire is often cited as the reason why humans are superior to animals and suggests that humans are capable of mastering nature.
  3. Being placed in this type of environment is the main conflict of the story for both the main character and the dog. The dog is used to being treated harshly by the man and is wary when the man changes his behavior in the hope of getting closer to kill it.
  4. To put the discussion into context, let me summarize the story even if its great popularity guarantees that most readers are familiar with it. The man, unlike Everyman, undergoes no redemption; nor, like Neil Bonner and the Ancient Mariner, does he return to civilization changed by the intensity and significance of his experience.
  5. Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earthbank, where a dim and little-traveled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. To put the discussion into context, let me summarize the story even if its great popularity guarantees that most readers are familiar with it.

Hence another analogue, what Maud Bodkin, after Jung, has termed the archetypal theme of rebirth, suggests itself. For Miss Bodkin, the rebirth theme consists of a double movement—downward toward disintegration and death and upward toward redintegration and life, but life greatly enriched.

There he has experiences, including a liaison with Jees Uck, a native girl, which give him new insights and values. These he takes back to civilization where he becomes a prominent member of his society.

The central character—like Neil Bonner and the Ancient Mariner—has a misconception that must be changed, for living in such ignorance is a kind of death. Neither the analogue of Everyman nor of the archetypal rebirth quite fits, however.

To Build a Fire: Essay Q&A

The man, unlike Everyman, undergoes no redemption; nor, like Neil Bonner and the Ancient Mariner, does he return to civilization changed by the intensity and significance of his experience. He does not even have a moment of illumination as he dies.

Before turning to a discussion of the characters, I must call attention to several details of the setting that seem to me symbolic.

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