Jack London's “To Build a Fire” is a short story dealing with a gentleman journeying alongside the Yukon River in the extreme temperatures of the area. Even though the man was cautioned against wandering about on his own in the chilly weather, he takes a risk to move out to get together with his companions at a distant camp a long distance away, having merely a single dog. This risk costs him his life, since he is not able to win over the natural conditions. In this respect it could be suggested that the naturalistic features of London's short story were significantly affected by the 19th-century concepts of Darwinism. Darwinism utilizes the evolutionary notion that natural conditions change an organism's physical structure with time by means of natural selection. The story applied it to the case of a man and a dog. In the naturalistic view the world is dependent on a sequence of links, which trigger the consequences to follow. In "To Build a Fire," the author consistently demonstrates how the person fails to possess the free will and the way the natural conditions are the causes and effects that have already plannedthe man’s destiny.
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Taking into account that the tale's setting is the Yukon River's Klondike in the freezing winter, it should be mentioned that the author offers the reader a particularly in-depth depiction of the landscape of the area wherein the story is taking place. “Day had broken cold and grey, exceedingly cold and grey” (London, 152) is utilized by the author to offer us the introduction to the panorama of a winter time with rather chilling temperature ranges. “The frozen moisture of its breathing” (London, 152), said when talking about the dog, produces the experience that, as opposed to simply cold, it seemed to be incredibly cold. The waterways have got frozen with three-feet ice in addition to a great deal of snow above them. “The curves and bends and timber jams” offer us the awareness of heaps of snow with a creek “frozen clear to the bottom” (London, 153). Many of these expressions notify the reader of the significance of the chilly weather in the account, since it looks like the Traveler pays limited heed to the outcomes of his shortage of reverence for the natural forces.
The fact is that during the occasions, when the person runs into a mishap, the author says "it happened," as though "it" were the inescapable character of nature and that the person did not perform any part in "it" (Widdicombe, 32). However, it should be said that this philosophical approach should likewise incorporate a significant aspect of the absence of responsibility that comes with the person's decisions. Defeated by natural forces, he ultimately dies on the route, letting his animal companion to finish the journey by itself. The story demonstrates how the influence of nature is surprisingly able to overpower even the most positive of human beings.
The traveler is the protagonist of the story. He is a swift and a cautious person, but falls short of ingenuity to see things in the perspective. We are aware of that he is familiar with the features of the arctic surroundings. Yet, it will become apparent that he has never encountered circumstances like these. The person is watchful and rather practical, demonstrated when he coaxes the four-legged companion to move ahead of him along the ice, in case there are soft areas. A mixture of pride and self-assurance are noticeable with nearly every idea that he has. When confronted with his own possibility to perish, the person struggles to brace himself and continue to be relaxed. The author utilizes the dog journeying with the person to illustrate some of the less apparent issues in the account. For example, we understand from the dog’s responses that the weather is not basically chilly, but nearer to the intolerable.
The main conflict in the tale is the Man against the Nature. He demonstrates a general shortage of reverence for the conditions in which he has decided to journey. Right from the start, the reader recognizes that the person is commencing a mission where others would look forward to more appropriate circumstances. His journey starts well, but quickly gets to be catastrophic when he happens to fall into the icy water and wets half of his body. He seems to be more irritated than concerned when he starts to build a fire to have his wet socks and boots dried up. His pride is displayed when he has such a thought, “Those old-timers were rather womanish”(London, 156).
As a consequence of the serious blunder on his side to build a fire under a tree branch loaded down with snow, his fire is put out as the heap falls from the branch. What is worse, his extremities have turned numb because of the cold. He does not show the dexterity to build another fire, so he starts to run in order to arrive at his companions' camp and also boost his blood circulation in this warm-up exercise. He is not successful in his efforts and before long falls down, having become totally exhausted. When lying in the snow, overcome and passing away, he gets to realize that the old-timer was correct. “You were right, old hoss; you were right,” he says. The man is no longer able to deny the fact that the nature's amazing power has beaten him.
The author produced the short story from a thoroughly multi-sided perspective. We understand what the Traveler does, sees, hears and thinks. We are aware of the things that had taken place before and what would possibly occur following his passing away. This perspective enables us to accumulate facts, for example, the graveness of the environment as the dog is disheartened about journeying and understands that they should not undertake the travel. In the sentence, “Never in the dog’s experience had it known a man to sit like that in the snow and make no fire”(London, 158), we see how the dog is watching the man die in the snow, reflecting on its previous occurrences and thinks that something is entirely wrong with the person. After getting the smell of death from the man, it goes away on the way to the camp. The reader typically would merely see the dog moving away. However, the narration enables us to understand what the dog is contemplating about.
Despite the fact that the gentleman is barely an "intellectual," he uses rational qualities more than the natural instinctive ones. The man employs complex means (the matches) in order to build a fire; he recognizes how freezing it is by using temperature readings; he determines where he is located by means of a map. On the contrary, the dog is a genuine instinct. It continues to be warm with the aid of its fur coat or by digging into the snow; it possesses a natural comprehension of the freezing weather and its hazards; it is not able to explain its location using a map, yet it is familiar with the scents helping it to locate the local human camp.
We can see that in the Yukon instinct is a great deal more effective than intelligence. The person's intelligence jeopardizes him. His aptitude to strike the matches using his numb fingers is hardly effective in the severe cold. The man's fingers as well as the matches are illustrations of the human naturally selected benefit of intelligence: the human has fingers to work with instruments, and his bigger, more complicated brain enables him to produce such instruments. Nevertheless, the dog is a lot smarter, conscious of that the cold is getting to be extremely perilous for them. It also realizes when the person is attempting to deceive it in some way (he desires to slay it and hide his hands in its warm body). As a result, just the dog makes it through, and although it may not manage to look after itself thoroughly, it is naturally aware of where to find "the other food-providers and fire-providers" in the local camp.
Thus, it could be said that “To Build a fire” is a celebration of the power of nature over human development whether it concerns physical or intellectual elements of our being. Darwinists as well as naturalists may use this story as an illustration of that creatures, people among them, do not possess free will in the broad sense, but are formed or organized by their surroundings and biological condition
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