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Comparison Of The Open Boat And The Law Of Life

1241 words - 5 pages

Naturalist writers of short stories in the early 1900's often conclude their stories with a death or tragedy. Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat" and Jack London's "To Build A Fire" both follow this pattern by illustrating events leading up to and including death. More importantly, each author defines nature and it's bearing on his or her ideas of society, hierarchy, and morality.Whereas each author has a different definition of nature, their ideas on other aspects of life run both parallel and perpendicular to one another. In Jack London's stories we find a very dramatic description of life, and on the other hand, Stephen Crane's description is quite cynical.Through setting, plot, and characterization, London's "To Build A Fire" gives the reader a dramatic description of life and conveys a message that humans need to be social in order to survive. London sets an average, middle-aged logger on a deserted Yukon trail during the wintry season where the temperature is seventy-five degrees below zero. The logger, accompanied only by his husky, is traveling to a location ten miles away in order to meet his companions. The man is placed in this Yukon environment in order to symbolize that in this cold, cruel world one must learn to benefit from others.Prior to embarking on his journey, the logger was advised from an old-timer at Sulfur Creek. He was told "no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below." The arrogant logger regarded this as "rather womanish", and assured himself that he was capable of making the trek alone. Not far in his travels, the character encounters death as he falls into a spring. "At a place where there were no signs, where the soft, unbroken snow seemed to advertise solidity beneath, the man broke through. It was not deep. He wet himself halfway up the knees before he floundered out to the firm crust." In this disaster, the logger proceeds to build a fire under the canopy of a nearby tree, but as the flames rose, the snow covering the canopy of the tree began to fall and ultimately distinguish the fire. London created these natural events not to destroy the character, but to illustrate his death as a result of his arrogance in believing he could survive independent of society.Through the device of characterization, the author is able to display how the other characters of the story benefited from society. The old-timer at Sulfur Creek illustrates the ability of individuals to gain wisdom from other's life experiences. Whereas, the logger's companions at Henderson Creek convey survival through togetherness, the dog illustrates the importance of instincts and being suited to one's environment.In Jack London's dramatic view of life and nature, the environment of which we are a part primarily defines humans. With this in mind, society, hierarchy and morality play a different role from which we are accustomed. As illustrated above, social actions are a necessary part of survival in London's worldview. However, a hierarchy,...

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