Journey to Destruction in Steinbeck's Flight and London's To Build a Fire
Not many people have to face death in the cold wasteland of the Arctic or rugged mountains of California, but Pepe and "the man" do. Although the ironic destruction of Pepe and the man were caused by relentless forces of nature, their attitudes and reasons for going on their journeys differed.
The setting in both stories consisted of extreme climate and conditions. In Flight the climate was desert hot during the day and chilling cold at night. "The Torres family had their farm, a few sloping acres above a cliff that dropped to the brown reefs and to the hissing white waters of the ocean. Behind the farm the stone mountains stood up against the sky." Pepe spent his last days in the mountains where the conditions were harsh. "His throat was almost closed with thirst. He crawled into the heavy brush feeling with his fingers for water. "There was no water in the bed of the stream, only damp earth." In contrast, the climate in "To Build a Fire" was frigidly cold. "Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray. As he turned to go on, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive crackle that startled him. He spat again, in the air, before it could fall to the snow the spittle crackled. He knew at fifty below spittle crackled on the snow, but this spittle had crackled in the air. Undoubtedly it was colder than fifty below--how much colder he did not know."
Both of the men's attitudes lead to their destruction. Pepe was very lazy and immature. "All day you do foolish things with the knife, like a toy-baby," his mother stormed. "Big lazy, you must catch the horse and put on him thy father's saddle." Pepe also had a hot temper. During the travel to Monterey, Pepe had a little to drink and ended up killing a man. "There was wine to drink. Pepe drank wine. The little quarrel--the man started toward Pepe...