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Jack London’s To Build a Fire

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In the short story, “To build a fire” by Jack London shows how man vs. nature and how an inexperienced traveler in the Yukon tries to travel alone with his dog, even though it’s advised not to. Yet he is stubborn and thinks he is right, and sets off for Henderson Creek to meet his friends. He faces many different conflicts of man verses man, and man verses nature. The traveler is advised not to make this trip with the lack of his inexperience in the Yukon due to the weather, the incoming storm, and its advisories.

With the subzero freezing cold temperatures that came with the storm. “Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear flaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks. “(561)He is book smart, lacking street smart, and nature humbled him during his travel to reach his friends. He was doomed from the beginning, by him being inexperienced in the sub-zero temperatures of the region.

He was although able to surpass some of the things that nature threw at him because of his observation of things due to his determination. But, he ignored the old man and his words that came back to haunt him in the end. The power of nature will most always prevail when you are in its playing field. This can be seen when London says, “Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear flaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks” (Page 561). “The trail was faint. A foot of snow had fallen sense the last sled had passed over, and he was glad he was without a sled, traveling light.

In fact, he carried nothing but the lunch wrapped in the handkerchief. He was surprised, however, at the cold” (561-562). The traveler is keen enough to pick up on the timber jams in the river. He shows that he does have skills even though he is inexperienced in the Yukon, and that he is well focused on his objective to travel the Yukon to see his friends. “He was keenly observant, and he noticed the changes in the creek, the curves, and bends and the timber-jam, and always he sharply noted where he placed his feet” (563). Also, he picks up on other hot springs and things within the terrain from being observant and careful.

The traveler starts to show just how inexperienced he is and how he really lacks the street smarts in the Yukon, when he builds the fire underneath a spruce tree along the edge of the tree line. He had to build the fire because the cold was getting to him and he needed to warm up after falling through the ice. HE was not smart, instead of putting the fire out in the open or further out without anything to come down on it to put it out, it was a lack of common sense. “It was as though he had just heard his own sentence of death. For a moment he sat and stared at the spot where the fire had been.

Then he grew very calm” (565). He then tries to move the fire out into the open, but knows that the kindling is saturated with water from the snow falling on the fire, it became useless. He now realizes he is in trouble. “Well, it was up to him to build another fire over again, and this second time there must be no failure. Even if he succeeded, he would almost likely lose some toes” and “Such were his thoughts, but he did not sit and think them” (567).

He then starts to think of ways in how he can warm his feet and hands, and comes up with the idea to kill the dog. His plan was to put his hands and feet in it to warm himself. Due to his inexperience after having the dog in his grasp, he looses grip, the dog gets away, and stays away from him. “But it was all he could do, hold its body encircled in his arms and sit .

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Jack London’s To Build a Fire. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved from

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