March 5, 2013
To Build a Fire
“To Build a Fire” is a short story that was written in 1902 by Jack London. The story is about a newcomer to the Yukon Territory, and his journey to the Yukon Trail with his wolf-dog, to meet his friends at an old claim. The passage along the little-traveled trail was through the spruce timberland. He began at nine o’clock, and was expected to reach his destination around six o’clock. The newcomer was alert and quick, but he had no imagination or understanding of the significance of the environment in which he traveled.
The best literary analysis for this story is Social Darwinism/Naturalism; Social Darwinism applied to the human environment the evolutionary concept that natural environments alter an organism's biological makeup over time through natural selection. Social Darwinists and naturalists cited this as proof that organisms, including humans, do not have free will, but are shaped, or determined, by their environment and biology. In "To Build a Fire," London repeatedly shows how the man does not have free will and how nature has already mapped out his fate. Indeed, both times the man has an accident, London states "it happened," as if "it" were an inevitability of nature and that the man had played no role in "it." “Then the thought came to him that the frozen portions of his body must be extending…Freezing was not so bad as people thought. There were lots worse ways to die” (1057). He was freezing to death and he knew it. He was just accepting that he was about to die.
This was a good story, because London’s view is that death is a part of nature and no man can stop it. Its show the man’s strength to survive knowing that his death was close. He also did not want to die because he knew what the dog was going to do as soon as die was to eat him. So he envied the dog for his ability to survive on his own without the fire or anything else. Death is natural; it’s a way of...