Stephen Crane's The Open Boat and Jack London's To Build A Fire

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Stephen Crane's The Open Boat and Jack London's To Build A Fire

Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat” speaks directly to Jack London’s own story, “To Build A Fire” in their applications of naturalism and views on humanity. Both writers are pessimistic in their views of humanity and are acutely aware of the natural world. The representations of their characters show humans who believe that they are strong and can ably survive, but these characters many times overestimate themselves which can lead to an understanding of their own mortality as they face down death.
In “To Build A Fire”, the main conflict throughout is man versus nature although it would be inaccurate to say that nature goes out of its way to assault the man. The
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The man laughs him off because he views himself as superior towards other men and believes that he can easily survive in the wilderness. The Man’s ego allowed him to think that he had everything under control, even though his fingers were numb from the cold.
Eventually, survival becomes the primary focus of the Man, who is trying, in vain, to protect himself against the unforgiving force of nature. He fruitlessly tries to warm himself back up, which is a direct contrast to the complete indifference displayed by Yukon. The environment merely remains the same and does not care one way or another as to whether the man survives or not. Jack London also uses numbers to reinforce the harsh realities of the Yukon, such as how fifty degrees below zero is the marker for the danger zone. The use of numbers shows the desperation of the Man’s situation and readers can slowly see his situation deteriorating further and further. Also, the idea of naturalism claims that the world is knowable only through objective science and that hard facts, such as temperature degrees, makes this particular world knowable and present some semblance of familiarity.
Jay Gurian comments in his article, “The Romantic Necessity in Literary Naturalism: Jack London”, about how London, and other naturalist writers deal with the forces of nature:
“But as every nineteenth-century
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