Choices and Responsibility in London's To Build a Fire and Crane's The Open Boat

1638 Words 7 Pages
Choices and Responsibility in London's To Build a Fire and Crane's The Open Boat

Naturalism portrays humans' control over their actions and fate as limited and determined by the natural world, including their very humanity. The freedom described by Jean-Paul Sartre results in all individuals having the ability to make present choices independently. Despite the fatalism illustrated in naturalism, the characters in London's 'To Build a Fire' and Crane's 'The Open Boat' are ultimately responsible for their choices and consequences of their choices.

In 'To Build a Fire,' the man's antagonist is nature: London displays the man's journey as restricted by external forces. First, the temperature of the tundra is seventy-five-below zero
…show more content…
Though London illustrates how nature is a difficult external force, the man is responsible for his misfortune, as his circumstances are the consequences of his choices. The narrator explains that the man was traveling ?to take a look at the possibilities of getting out logs in the spring? (978); more than likely, he did not have to perform this task, which required taking ?the roundabout way? (978). Also, despite being a ?newcomer to the land? (977), the man fails to bring a human companion to the ?unprotected tip of the planet? (982): just as the Earth is exposed to space here, as the narrator describes, the man has little defense against the cold. The man is not ignorant of the extreme cold, but rather, arrogant; though warned about the conditions (982), the man does not bring anything except a small lunch (978). Another sign of his lack of preparation is his failure to sufficiently protect himself from frostbite: he ?experienced a pang of regret that he had not devised a nose-strap...[that] passed across the cheeks, as well, and saved them? (979). Granted, the man can not see the water he falls into (981), but the fundamental responsibility for the journey is his. Furthermore, he elects to build the fire to thaw himself under the spruce tree, which proves disastrous (983). The narrator notes, ?It was his own fault, rather, his mistake? (982); the man also recognizes this, and knows he
Open Document