“To Build A Fire” Essay

890 words - 4 pages

“To Build a Fire” is a short story written by Jack London. It is viewed as a masterpiece of naturalist fiction. “To Build a Fire” features a miner who is traveling to the Yukon Territory with a dog as his companion. The miner is the protagonist and the dog companion is called the foil. The dog plays off of the traits of the protagonist. “The central motif of “To Build a Fire” concerns the struggle of man versus nature.” (Short Story Criticism) The most argued point in the short story is the reason of the protagonist death. “Some critics believe that it was his lack of intuition and imagination that lead to his death, while others say that he dies because of panic.” (Short Story Criticism) The protagonist in “To Build a Fire” struggles in the wilderness of the Yukon and ultimately finds his death because he lacks intuition and imagination.
“To Build a Fire” centralizes on a miner traveling to meet up with fellow miners. He does not make this journey with a fellow miner. He is followed by a “wolf-dog.” (London 2) The miner travels to the Yukon Territory in a temperature of seventy-five below zero. He judges the temperature by how fast his spit freezes. “At fifty below zero it freezes as it hits the ground. He ignores the deathly cold temperature, while the dog whines and whimpers due to the extreme cold.” (London 2) The miner is warned not to travel in the extreme cold, but he ignores the warnings and travels anyway. “The protagonist eventually meets his demise because of his decision.” (London 12)
Some Critics argue that the protagonist meets death because he panics because his inability to start a fire and find shelter. They feel that in his desperation for warmth he loses hope and self control. The man ponders on ideas for warmth and tries to accomplish some but fails. “The man tries to start a fire beneath the shelter of a spruce tree but snow falls and extinguishes embers. The miner attempts to start another fire in the open but his efforts are futile.” (London 9) The miner thinks about killing his dog companion for the warmth but is too weak. “The man then panics and begins running until he can run no longer.” (London 11) The man dies shortly after many attempts to run to the camp. These facts lead some critics to believe that the protagonist dies as a result of panic and the failure of his rational faculties. (Short Story Criticism)
The protagonist meets his demise because of his lack in intuition and imagination. (Short Story Criticism) The miner heads out to the miners camp after being warned to not travel at such cold temperatures. The miner displays his...

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