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Man Vs. Environment In To Build A Fire By Jack London

1042 words - 4 pages

One can express many different types of themes in Jack London’s, “To Build a Fire”. Though I feel strongly that London’s theme in the story is about that the environment shapes who we are because it shows that the man is not strong enough to live up to his environment. Allowing the environment to kill the man indicates that he is weak both mentally and biologically, while on the other hand the dog is stronger by surviving the same harsh environment. Instinct superior to reason is another theme that is highly portrayal able in London’s story. In order for the dog to survive and the man to die, the dog required instinct, of which the man lacked. The man did acquire reason and observance but not good enough to allow him to reach his goal makes it subordinate to instinct.
In the harsh environment of Yukon, Alaska, it determined what types of individuals both the man and dog were by pushing their limits. It is noticeable that the man has barely any control over his environment due to that he attempts to build a fire but fails at all times. The first time he builds his fire under the spruce trees, he does not evaluate the possibility of the snow falling from the tree onto the fire causing the fire to extinguish. London explains that “It was his own fault or mistake.” (London, 489) meaning that the reason as to why the snow fell from the tree could not be held a responsibility of the man but rather a mistake; due to that it is not his fault because he could not predict if the snow was going to fall or not but it is his mistake of building the fire there. I agree with London’s explanation because the man had no control to stop the snow from falling if he had, then it would have been considered his own fault, although he was still held responsible in the thoughtless mistake of building the fire in the wrong place. This example makes us aware of how little control the man has and how much control the environment has over him enough to change the plan of the first fire building.
The man is also weak in the face of nature as nature tortures him with the physical accidents the man suffers. He firstly begins when his cheekbones and nose went numb and becomes worse as he looses touch and grasp of his hands, finishing off with the freezing of his corpse and sudden stiff death. London exclaims about the accounts the man has suffered, “This man did not know cold.” (London, 487) and “He was loosing in his battle with the frost.” (London, 493) I do agree because the man is a new comer, a chechaquo, meaning that it is the man’s first contact with such freezing environment. The man constantly through out the story efforts in combating against the forces of nature that he can not control the reason being because he was inexperienced to such environment, therefore the man is bound to be with the odds and like London exclaims, loose his battle...

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