Essay 5: Short Fiction Analysis
Analysis of the Element of the Human Condition in Literature
Writers have a hard time escaping the limitations of knowing the human condition. It is a problem not of imagination, but of not being fired so concretely into anything other. Our stories are riddled with intensity and vividness and source enough for millennia. I have selected a few stories we have read this semester that exemplify this and to bring up questions they ask. In “The Things They Carried,” we see burdened men of combat. In “To Build a Fire,” the unnamed protagonist dies in the wilderness because he did not respect it. In “A Point of Morals,” a moral decision is investigated. And in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” very fundamentally, reality is questioned. War, nature, morals, and reality are the themes in each respective story to be explored.
Jack London is a fine observer of nature and the processes therein taken for granted. Humanity is a part of the cycle of life but industrialization and urbanization have left a great many of us ignorant of this. The survival instinct has been dulled by the immediacy and convenience of modern life. The man in his story is half way between this modern world and that of more primitive man, eking out an existence in the rough outback of Alaska. He doesn’t heed the warnings of the seasoned old man - that he should be very wary of the cold. Denial of man’s vulnerability is an all-too-present fallacy. We build our civilizations to as great a height as they will go, but there is always a check. We mostly compete with ourselves, but Mother Nature still greatly impinges upon us as we see New Orleans deluged and Haiti in crumbles. The man in the wild is overcome by his own disregard, simply dying in the cold and unmoved snow. Mother is misunderstood and disrespected, and we distance ourselves physically and psychologically while Mother Nature blankets us - comforting sometimes,...
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