Jack London's to Build a Fire

Better Essays
Victoria Garrison
Eng 102
Turley Summer 2013
Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” is a story about an unnamed man on a journey thru the Yukon alone in deadly cold conditions. He is followed by a wolf dog that is also unnamed. He is traveling to meet his boys at on old claim near Henderson Fork. The man is arrogant in his thinking believing that he is able to make the journey alone, even though a sourdough from Sulphur Creek had warned him never to travel alone when the temperature is greater than fifty below. The temperature during his journey is seventy five below. Along the way he breaks thru the ice and the freezing water wets him half way up to his knees. Faced with a life and death dilemma, he desperately attempts to build a fire as his faculties begin to leave him. The setting in the story is paramount in the effect it has on the reader. London used his own personal experience from his time in the Klondike during the gold rush to enable the reader to fully appreciate the challenges the environment has presented to the man. London’s expert use of imagery causes the reader to feel like they are freezing right along with the man and the wolf dog. Jack London was born as John Griffith Chaney on January 12, 1876. There is no evidence that his mother Flora Wellman was married to his alleged father William Chaney and when Chaney learned of the pregnancy he demanded that Flora have an abortion. When she refused, Chaney denied any responsibility for the baby. Falling into a depression, Flora made an unsuccessful suicide attempt. When John was born his mother turned his care over to an ex-slave who became his main mother figure throughout this life. Later in 1876 Flora married John London and took her baby, later to be called Jack, back to live with them in Oakland California where Jack completed grade school. London had his sights set on the Univ. of California Berkley. He studied intensely for an entire summer preparing for



Cited: London, Jack. “To Build a Fire” The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Ed. Michael Meyer, 10th ed. Boston; Bedford/St. Martins, 2013 725-735 “Jack London” Wikipedia : the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 2013. Web

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