Essay on No Accidents in Jack London's To Build a Fire

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As the title implies, Jack London's 1908 short story contains within its narrative a literal set of sequential directions on how "To Build a Fire." London extends this sequential conceit to his fatidic vision of the universe. Unlike the dog in the story, who can rely on its pure-bred arctic instinct as it navigates through the dangerous tundra, the anonymous man possesses a duller, myopic instinct which is unable foresee the consequentiality of the environment. This instinctual flaw in mankind (relative to that of a husky) is a given, but the man fails to compensate by integrating intellectuality into his journey. Were he to use all his resources efficiently, as the dog does, the man could anticipate the chain of events that …show more content…
Even the modifying adverb "exceedingly" alters the first bleak "Day had broken cold and gray," cueing the reader to the probability that the temperature will worsen throughout the story (or at least the man's reaction to it will). Throughout the story the man can only repeat to himself "It certainly was cold," adding surety to his present observation rather than forecasting in the way "exceedingly" does.

London further capitalizes on this scenic moment to expose the man's status as a foil to the environmental chain, an unanchored participant who begins the story in stasis and will end in the same position. On high ground (verticality will play an important role later), the man "pause[s]" to check the time. Rather than continuing to merge with the fluid environment, his only definition of progression is a temporal, technological one, and not geographic. Viewing the world in numerical - the narrator, or the man, later gauges the main trail's unseen "dark hair-line" main trail in mileage to various checkpoints - rather than spatial terms foreshadows his literal downfall. The man looks "back along the way he had come" instead of looking forward on his route, and the description of the ground makes a punning "no impression on the man," as few warning signs in the story do: "The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three
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