Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”

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To Build a Fire, by Jack London, describes a man’s trip through a brutal winter in the snow, facing many problems along the way. The author employs characters, themes, and a blunt tone in the narrative to expose man’s battle against nature. Similarly, in general, human beings do not trust their impulses in living conditions in order to live in a society where mankind is less important than natural forces. The man faced atmospheric conditions that were 75 degrees below freezing, and he was neither psychologically nor physically trained for those conditions. The most dominant theme in Jack London’s “To build a Fire” is man vs nature. The man whose name is not mentioned goes into the forest alone accompanied by a dog with the hope to survive and overcome the challenges of nature. However, he does not manage to cope with the harsh winter wind and dies eventually. Throughout the entire tale, all things continue to go in a downshift. For example, when the man finally gets the fire lit, the scene is quickly accompanied by the most downward shift when the fire is extinguished by the falling snow (London, 7). However, if the man could have simply positioned the fire in more open place, this would not have occurred. The man attempts to ignite another fire in a separate place. However, it was already too late as the cold had taken over him and his hands became too numb to allow him to strike the match so as to set the fire. The man could have survived throughout the crude winter, and this could not have occurred if only he could have thought about what would happen after he started the fire and the snow above the tree would have began melting because of the hot steam. The man allowed nature to prevail him because of this act.

Moreover, the man is weak in the face of nature since he is tortured by nature in the accidents he suffers. At first, his nose together with his cheekbones gets numb then turns out to be worse as he loses grasps and touch his hands, ending up with the freezing of his corpse and sudden stiff death (London, 10). The author states that the man never had the slightest idea of cold. It is true that he was a chechaquo, a newcomer, who takes the first step in the freezing environment combating against the forces of nature that he cannot control throughout the entire story and in the end he loses his battle. The dog has a better instinct than the man as he is adapted to the cold weather. For example, the dog instantly begins to lick his legs to get all of the frost off when it falls in the river trail. Also, he keeps himself warming by curling up in a ball.

Additionally, the author describes that an individual is unable to guess whatever can take place in an unknowable environment. The forces of nature are working against; however, it relies on the kind of mankind present as well as whether it is adequately suitable for living and surviving in such environment. A person has to be experienced to survive in the harsh Yukon nature since men can not be aware of where the unexpected and the worse will occur. “To Build a Fire,” is established on naturalism for the reason that it is based on the struggle between man and nature and the role of the environment is emphasized being the antagonist.

In conclusion, man hardly has any control over nature. The man ended up dying in the severe conditions of nature. The unrelenting wind, potential frostbite and the cold do not make the man to take heed. Even his dog, who is in tune with nature, tries to hold back. The story of London also proves that nature can be subdued with the help of good reasoning, intuitive thinking.

Work Cited

London, Jack. To build a fire. Bantam Classics, 2007.

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