To Build a Fire

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“To Build a Fire” and its Imagery
One of the tools many authors use in writing is imagery. Imagery is a concrete representation of a sense impression, a feeling, or an idea which appeals to one or more of our senses. There are five types of imagery implemented in literature which appeal to each of our five senses: touch, hearing, smell, sight, and taste. They are termed tactile imagery, aural imagery, olfactory imagery, visual imagery, and gustatory imagery. In Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire”, he uses imagery to support the point of the story. The point of “To Build a Fire” is man’s naive notion that he is strong enough to overcome nature’s harshest obstacles.

The protagonist, referred to as the “man”, must survive in the freezing weather of the Yukon. The man believes it is approximately fifty degrees below zero and that he will be able to make the treacherous journey to meet his friends whom are refers to as the “boys”. The severity of the weather is illustrated in the story by the quote, “As he turned to go on, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive crackle that startled him. He spat again. And again, in the air, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled.” This quote is an example of aural imagery. It allows the reader to imagine the sound of the man’s spit freezing in mid-air before it even hits the ground. One could imagine the reverberating echo of the man’s spit in the vast wasteland of snow, bringing to the imagination how cold it really is. The narrator brings into the picture using authorial intrusion that the protagonist now realizes that it must be more than fifty below zero since that is the temperature at which spit crackles on the snow and his spit crackled in the air. The man knows that it must be at least seventy degrees below zero.

The quote, “He smiled agreeably to himself as he thought of those biscuits, each cut open and sopped in bacon grease, and each enclosing a generous slice of...
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