To Build a Fire Character Analysis

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“To Build a Fire” Character Analysis: The Man With a Plan

In “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, the main character, also known as “the man”, is the protagonist. The protagonist is “the central character in a literary work and the character who initiates the main action of the story.” (Kennedy 2080) The man is a dynamic character whose lack of instinct, thoughtlessness and determination leads him to his own death.

In the story, the man is traveling with a dog. The dog is somewhat a companion, but for the most part it only views the man as a fire and food provider. The only item the man brings with him is his lunch wrapped in a handkerchief. His ultimate goal is to reach a camp where “the boys“ are. At the beginning of the story, London describes the man as, “ without imagination.” and “quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not the significances.” (London 115) This leads the reader to believe that he thinks about the perils he will have to overcome in his journey to camp, but does not think about how they will come or what his actions will do to provoke them. For example, when the man built his first fire, he built it under a spruce tree. He knew it was easier to pull the twigs from the tree and put them in the fire if it was right underneath, but he did not clearly think of what he was doing. “Each time he had pulled a twig he had communicated a slight agitation to the tree, an agitation sufficient to bring about the disaster.”(London 120) The agitation eventually caused the snow piled up on the tree to collapse right on the fire underneath. The man seemed confident that he would not face too much danger. He did not think about the weakness of human beings compared to the strength of nature. Instead, he believe that all he needed in order to live was to “keep his head”.(London 119)

As the story progresses, panic and uncertainty seems to creep up in his mind. “And all the time, in his consciousness, was the knowledge that...
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