October 11, 2012
Central Idea, Characterization, Setting and Conflict for “To Build A Fire”
In Jack London’s short story, “To Build A Fire,” he takes readers to the backwoods of the Yukon Trail where a lone man and his dog are out hiking through the backcountry along the creek. The day is extremely cold, but the temperature does not seem to hinder this man, who is a newcomer to the Yukon Territory. Even though other hikers native to the area try to warn the man of the foolishness of hiking alone in these conditions, the man turns a deaf ear to the warnings and continues about his way. After meeting obstacle after obstacle, the man determines that maybe the old native really did know what he was talking about after all. Heeding the warnings too late, the man fights valiantly to save his life against the forces of nature that he faces with only a dog by his side for companionship. London’s Central Idea is that pride and arrogance often lead to disastrous results.
“To Build A Fire” has one main character, the unnamed male hiker in the story. London tells the story from the omniscient point of view, which allows the reader access to all of the character’s thoughts and feelings as he goes along his hike. He is a man new to the area, with only enough knowledge about the conditions there to be truly dangerous. London describes the man as being “…quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances.” What makes him even more dangerous is the fact that he’s overly confident in his own abilities. He becomes confident of the good time that he’s making along the trail, instead of focusing on paying attention to the dangers that Nature can have in store along such paths. Instead of listening to what the old native man in the story has to offer him in terms of advice for how to survive along the Yukon Trail, the man essentially scoffs at the old man as he “…laughed at him…” and goes about his business in...
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