Naturalism in "To Build a Fire"

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Man. He the reasoning animal. A creature bestowed with the gift of rationality and ingenuity. As such, he is the only creature that fancies himself in control of his destiny. From the naturalistic viewpoint, life appoints nature as the final arbiter of the fate of all organisms, from the miniscule amoeba to the gargantuan whale to the overconfident human. Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire", highlights the naturalistic belief that the human attempt at controlling destiny is ultimately futile, as human behavior is largely reigned in by their heredity and environment. The short story details the unsuccessful journey of an unnamed man who ventures out into the hibernal wilderness of Alaska to meet up with "the boys". From the very beginning of his journey, the man's indifference to the extreme cold is made obvious, " Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all, It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and man's frailty in general…" (482). His nonchalant attitude to the temperature is indicative of his lack of hereditary instincts. However, his canine companion, who knows nothing of temperature and degrees, understands the deadly implications of venturing out in such frigid weather. "The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold. it knew that it was no time for traveling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told by the man's judgement" (482). The dog possessed an innate sense of danger, a instinct that had accumulated from generations of hereditary experience. The man's untimely demise can partly be attributed to something he had no control over: the lack of hereditary instinct in dealing with the cold. No amount of book-learning can replace raw, wild instinct when it comes to surviving in a hostile environment. The hereditary factor makes itself more pronounced when the man tries to avoid the hidden springs...
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