To Build a Fire by Jack London Essay

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To Build a Fire by Jack London

The short story "To build a Fire" by Jack London, tells about the relationship between man and nature. The story takes place in the Yukon during one of the long night. The main character who is unnamed travels with a dog along a small trail to a mining camp. The man leaves against the advice of a local and after a short time realizes that he should have waited. The temperature is extremely cold because the mans spit freezes before it hits the ground. The main obstacle of his journey is the many covered springs that mean death to whoever falls into them. The man sends his dog in front of him to make sure that the trail is safe. Eventually the dog falls into one of the springs and gets his paws wet.
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The man represents the fraction of society that doesn't respect nature. He doesn't understand the power of nature because he is oblivious to it. On the other hand the dog was "told a truer tale than that was told to the man by the man's judgement." The man "did not know cold. Possibly all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real cold." "The was no keen intimacy between the dog and the man." The man and the dog are together because the man needs the dog, and the dog has no choice. They have no emotional connection between them because the dog is used as a slave. In one part of the story the man uses the dog to test the trail and make sure that it is safe. The dog has more inherent knowledge about the area, all of his "ancestry knew" about the cold and the dangers of extreme cold. He also had a warm "natural covering" to keep him safe from the weather. The man was not used to the cold. He "was without imagination. He was quick and alert to the things of life, but only the things, and not the significances." He also was stubborn for his neglect to take advice.

To Build a Fire is a story is a perfect example of the writing genre Naturalism. It contains elements like survival depends on instinct, nature is impersonal, man lacks free choice, and heredity and environment direct and influence our lives. In the story nature is the antagonist and is very impersonal, as it is in life. The dog
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