Jack London's "To Build A Fire" Deals With Man's Struggle With Nature.

1482 words - 6 pages

Building a Fire to Fight NatureJack London's title for the story "To Build a Fire" starts the reader off with a very basic idea; building a fire. Almost anyone can build a fire. All it takes is a match and some kindling. London's story is about more then building a fire, though. This story is about a man's belief in himself, self-confidence and even arrogance, to such an extent that he doesn't recognize the power of nature around him. London's story is more like a "Man against Nature" story. London's "To Build a Fire" casts a clear image that in the ever long-lasting battle between man and nature, nature is not a force that should be reckoned with. The author's characters are even very general. The main character of the story is never given a name except to be called a "chechaqua" or newcomer in the land. "The constant struggle of Man against the natural world and physical forces which threaten to undo him at any moment is expressed greatly by this story."(Colin) This is not a story about one individual person or one isolated incident, but a story used to illustrate a larger continuous gamble or battle between man and nature.London spends the first few paragraphs setting the physical scene. The setting is in Alaska along the Yukon River. It is close to the end of winter but the sun is still not yet in the sky. It is mentioned that this does not bother the man. The rest of the setting is described around the man and the places he has passed on this current journey and where else the trail leads in other directions. The description of the scenery is one of the most intriguing aspects of this story. London had a way of almost making the reader feel cold for the man in the story just by his descriptions of the surrounding territory."The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice was as many feet of snow. It was all pure white, rolling in gentle undulations where the ice jams of the freeze-up had formed. North and south as far as his eye could see, it was unbroken white.."(Charters, 910)The scene is set as beautiful, peaceful and cold. The harshness of this physical setting begins to become more and more clear as the story progresses. Later the man notices that his spit is cracking and freezing before it reaches the ground. He remembers that at fifty degrees below zero spit will freeze when it hits the ground. "Undoubtedly it was colder than fifty below."(911) This also means that there is at least 107 degrees of frost if it is truly 75 degrees below freezing.To increase the readers awareness of the cold, London describes how the mans breath is freezing on his whiskers and beard, the man is also chewing tobacco and with the temperature as cold as it is his cheeks and lips are numb and his spit tends to just end up on his beard and freezes in seconds. This man must be out of his mind to be out in the wilderness in these extreme climate conditions. "Seeing a man that oblivious to the dangers of traveling alone in colder...

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