Essay about Analysis of Jack London's "To Build a Fire"

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In Jack London's "To Build a Fire" we see a classic story of man against nature. In this story, however, nature wins. One reason that this is such a compelling and engrossing story is the vivid descriptions of the environment the nameless main character endures. Plot and characterization are brief, and the theme is simple. Yet this story is still a very popular story, and it has a mysterious quality that makes it great.

Jack London starts early in the story to set a foreboding feeling: "Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little traveled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland." (London) It is this
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(London)

Another great aspect of London's story is its similarities to a Greek tragedy. Our hero is the man striving against the antagonist, nature. His tragic flaw, pride, ultimately leads to his defeat and death.

<cite>Here, as throughout the story, the narrator functions as the chorus, who mediates between the action and the reader and who provides a moral commentary upon the action. The setting, a mask of scornful gods, functions as antagonist. Aside from these, the only other character is the dog, who acts as foil or "reflector" by displaying the humility and natural wisdom which the man fatally lacks. (Labor) </cite>

The power of this story doesn't come purely from its similarities to Greek tragedy, this is merely the way we can identify its power. Greek tragedies are not powerful simply because of what they are; they are powerful because they have all the elements that make humans vulnerable to their own flaws.

At the end of the story the man panics, then realizes the hopelessness of his situation. With this realization comes a calm composure: "his idea of it was that he had been making a fool of himself, running around like a chicken with its head cut off... Well, he was bound to freeze anyway, and he might as well take it decently." (London) This catharsis that comes
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