Intellectual Reasoning vs. Instinct
It has been said from Plato onward that man's reasoning is his highest faculty and makes him superior to animals. In the short story "To Build a Fire," by Jack London, man’s intellectual reasoning ability is regarded as “second class” to that of the survival mechanism that is embedded within humans and animals alike. This survival mechanism is sometimes referred to as instinct. If solely depended on, man’s intellectual reasoning may be clouded, imprudent and even detrimental, leading him to the wrong decision. Instinct, on the other hand, is a natural reaction pre-programmed into man for survival and cannot be altered by reasoning, making it superior to reason. As the story opens, the man clearly understands that the “day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray,” and still he insists on continuing his journey (650). The fact that the temperature is below freezing did not seem to bother him. He is ignorant of the cold. As he stands surveying the snow covered Yukon trail, “the mysterious, far-reaching hair-line trail, the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it all—made no impression on him” (651). He is determined to join the boys at camp to enjoy the warmth, food, and companionship regardless of the weather. The man is very observant about his surroundings, however, “he was without imagination” (651). The temperature is about seventy-five degrees below zero, which means that it is about one hundred and seven degrees below freezing. To him, the air is cold and uncomfortable, and nothing more. He ignores the fact that he is a warm blooded creature and as such only able to survive at certain temperatures. Anything beyond that range requires not only intellectual reasoning ability but also instinct.
The big native husky that accompanies him on his journey is his only companion. The animal can adapt to the cold weather, but on this occasion it is...
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