Intellect vs. Instinct in 'To Build a Fire' by Jack London

1382 Words Dec 4th, 2004 6 Pages
The ignorance of the main character in To Build a Fire by Jack London is what ultimately causes his failure. He has never experienced cold like that of the Yukon Trail but is confidant, regardless, that he will reach his goal of meeting his friends at the campsite. It is the man 's determination to follow his intellect rather than his instinct that reveals his ignorance.

The man begins his journey relying on flawed intellect. He illogically treks through snow, wetting his boots and feet, and must dry them before they succumb to frostbite. When the dog 's feet get wet, it instinctively licks and bites at the ice that forms between its toes. The man helps the dog, briefly removing his mitten in the numbing cold. The man does not take the
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"Empty as the man 's mind was of thoughts, he was keenly observant, and he noticed changes in the creeks, the curves and bends and timbre jams, and always he sharply noted where he placed his feet. Here, the man is learning from his prior mistakes and letting himself be led by the cold, earlier when he was thinking of his goal and not of his feet, he found himself with freezing toes. Now, after time in the Yukon, he has found a respect for the cold. Although, this respect is not enough to drive him to the next campsite, London is unforgiving of the man 's original eubrice in taking on the cold, and does not seem to want to allow him to succeed.

Eventually the man 's focus had to turn from his own goal, reaching the riches of the Yukon Trail, to survival, and fighting the frostbite that is slowly overtaking his body. However, the man refuses to consider the consequences of his actions, even when his life is threatened by the accidents: "And all the time, in his consciousness, was the knowledge that each instant his feet were freezing. This thought tended to put him in a panic, but he fought against it and kept calm"
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