Jack London Essay

1250 words - 5 pages

Jack London, an American author known for his thrilling adventure stories, showed the world that even an exciting story that takes place in exotic settings can include all the intricacies of great literature. This is seen in many of his stories with the implementation of symbolism, many times a recurring theme in his work. Also, London used many ideas of the day such as Darwinism and Spencerism in his writings in order to better portray his views. However, perhaps one of the most telling signs that London wrote good literature was through London's mastery of a rising literary movement known as naturalism.
As seen in multitude of London's works, symbolism plays a major role in his writings. One of London's greatest works of short fiction, "To Build a Fire" is a prime example of this inclusion of the literary technique that is so crucial in so many of London's greatest stories. In this story fire is a major symbol, symbolizing life in a world of cold, the freezing Klondike. This symbol helps London to show his belief that to survive in nature one needs nature. This is a recurring symbol/theme in London's work, also appearing in "Law of Life." Here, an old Native American must harness fire to survive the harshness of the wild. When the old man's fire finally expires, as happens in "To Build a Fire", so too does the old man's life (Hamilton ). Along with the use of fire as a symbol in many of his stories, London uses the symbolic canine in the majority of his stories, including "To Build a Fire", "Law of Life", Call of the Wild, and White Fang among many other stories. In all of these stories some sort of canine, whether dog or wolf, appears, becoming a motif in the works of Jack London. London often uses these characters to portray his belief that it is the fittest beings that survive in a world that is as harsh in his stories as he believed reality to be. In "To Build a Fire," a mysterious man, referred to as "the man" (Rhodes 1) in many literary critiques, must survive a hump over the frozen tundra of the Klondike, and with him he takes his husky. The two characters act as foils to each other, each experiencing the same situations as the other, but it is their responses to the situations that show the difference between the two. For example, both the husky and the man break through the ice and got their paws/feet wet: "Suddenly it (the husky) broke through… the water that clung to it turned to ice" (London 500) and then later "…the man broke through (the ice)" (London 501-502). It is the husky, however, that proved more adept to coping with the freezing climate of the North, especially after having gotten wet in a freezing creek. Because of this innate ability of the husky, he survived the ordeal whereas the man died of hypothermia after his fire, which was meant to dry out his foot, was snuffed out by the Northern snow. "It was as though he had heard his own sentence of death. For a moment he sat there and stared at the spot...

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