Nature: The Double Edged Sword
From the bitter, cold winters in Antarctica to the blazing, hot summers in Africa and from the ugly, thick swamplands of Louisiana to the beautiful, clean coasts of Hawaii, nature plays a pivotal role in life on this wonderful planet. Nature is extremely dangerous but it is also a beautiful component of the earth. People view nature in unique ways that are displayed through actions and words. Jack London, author of “To Build a Fire”, and Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, both value nature and view it in a unique way that is translated to their works of literature. These two authors apply a unique perspective of how nature can apply to everyday life. The aspects of interacting with nature and human emotions analyzed and examined in the works of Jack London and Henry David Thoreau. Nature can be a dreaded enemy and can drain life out of humans and animals that are not aware and cautious. In the short story “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, nature sets and controls the tone throughout and interacts with the man and his dog. In the story, a man and his dog are traveling through the Yukon, in Alaska, to meet the man’s friends in a cabin miles away. They encounter an enormous amount of adversity and pain while trying to reach his friends. The Yukon is one of the coldest places on Earth and the man and his dog have to travel for hours in the bitter cold. They discover the power and ruthlessness of nature head on in their journey. The man had an estimation of how cold it really is while he and his dog were walking, the temperature is, “Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man's frailty in general, able to live within certain narrow limits of cold” (London). This quote shows that the man believes that he is stronger and more powerful than the cold. Nature interacts with the man and slowly causes him to loose his human sense. The man becomes mentally and physically weak and eventually dies from frostbite and vulnerability to nature. Nature’s interaction with the man and his dog clearly set the scene for the whole story. On the other hand, nature can be a person’s best friend and fantasy. In the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau becomes one with nature and lives on the shores of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. He moves to the woods and lives by himself and observes nature first hand. Thoreau states exactly why he goes to the woods, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach” (Thoreau 406). Thoreau believes that nature is an essential part of his life. Thoreau moves to the shores of Walden Pond because he believes that he needs to simplify his life, believing that the best way to live was uncommitted, free, and as long as possible. Rather than nature being a threatening part of life, as in “To Build a Fire”, Walden describes nature as calm and inviting. Thoreau values the opportunity to control what he does and when he does it. He knows that he is free in nature and enjoys the fact that he can go fishing on the river and exploring in the woods, whenever he desires. Thoreau interacts and connects with nature in a calm and productive way. The way that nature interacts with Thoreau creates a distinct tone for the whole story. Jack London bases his short story on the fact that nature is always pushing man to his limits. James R. Giles, in his Introduction to American Realism, states London inspired a fiction that can best be described as the naturalistic and imperialistic epic that has been a mainstay of twentieth-century American popular literature and culture” (Giles). This shows that London encompasses all of the assets to be known as a naturalist writer. London creates a way to make readers...
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