An Analysis of Jack London's To Build A Fire


Length: 456 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

An Analysis of Jack London's To Build A Fire


Charles E. May, Author of the article "To Build A Fire': Physical Fiction and Metaphysical Critics" was giving his psychological criticism on the Jack London short story. May was elaborating on the naturalistic behavior of man versus nature when it comes to survival. May's article suggests that the protagonist in the story did not only have a psychological discovery but a "simple physical discovery that self is body only"(23).

In the story, "To Build A Fire", the protagonist has to accept that he was not invincible, but a human with a weakness. The man may have been psychologically apt in his own eye but weak against nature and the physical elements. The protagonist displayed defiance in authority when he "laughed" (152) at the advice of the Old-Timer on Sulphur Creek when he told him how cold it gets in the country. The protagonist felt he had everything under control when he made the first fire to keep warm in spite of the numbness of his fingers. The test of egos and wills began to surface when the man was ready to move on and the dog wanted to stay near the fire. However, just as "there was no keen intimacy between the dog and the man"(152) the dog would be the protagonist constant companion until the man's death.

The man had to accept that the "fire provider had failed"(156) when he did not have control of his frozen fingers or the building of the fire. Nature had defeated him. The id in the protagonist wanted to kill the dog to keep himself warm. But the ego along with the man's inability to "neither draw nor hold his sheath knife"(157) caused him not to be able to kill the dog. The aura of death was prevalent. Realizing that he no longer had dominion over his own body as well as accepting his making a "fool of himself"(158) he had to accept the inevitable. Not only did he have to accept death, he had to acknowledge that the Old-Timer was right when warning him about traveling alone.

Ironically, while the man was dying, he was angry at the dog because of its natural warmth, instincts that he had, and the survival skills that the dog used.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"An Analysis of Jack London's To Build A Fire." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Apr 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=20261>.
Title Length Color Rating  
An Analysis of Jack London's To Build a Fire Essay - An Analysis of Jack London's To Build a Fire In her cultural criticism of Jack London's "To Build a Fire", Jill Widdicombe explores the question of whether the story's protagonist might have perished from the extreme cold of the Klondike winter even if with a traveling companion. She describes the brutality of the winter weather and, alluding to the man's confidence in his ability to survive the weather, describes it as "behavior most of us can understand" - especially if we are accustomed to warmer surroundings....   [tags: London To Build a Fire Essays] 474 words
(1.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
An Analysis of Jack London's To Build a Fire Essay - An Analysis of Jack London's To Build a Fire In his article "To Build a Fire" a Physical Fiction and Metaphysical Critics Charles E. May comments and disagrees with a statement that "To Build a Fire" is "a masterpiece of a short fiction"(20). Literary critics claimed that London used many metaphors in this work such as "sun-fire-life" or "cold-darkness-depression-death"(20), but May argues that this story should be read and interpreted literally and does not contain deep, dual or metaphorical meaning....   [tags: London To Build a Fire Essays] 542 words
(1.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Jack London’s Use of Repetition in “To Build a Fire” Essay - Jack London’s To Build a Fire follows an unnamed protagonist, who’s only referred to as “the man”, as he travels the Yukon Trail during a severe snow storm. Along with his husky wolf-dog, he determined to meet friends at an old junction by six o’clock. The man, who was warned not travel in the Klondike alone, presses forward through the terrain’s harsh weather. He later falls through the snow in what looked to be a secure spot. With his feet and fingers soaked, he starts a fire and begins drying himself....   [tags: Literary Analysis]
:: 1 Works Cited
1230 words
(3.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
No Accidents in Jack London's To Build a Fire Essays - As the title implies, Jack London's 1908 short story contains within its narrative a literal set of sequential directions on how "To Build a Fire." London extends this sequential conceit to his fatidic vision of the universe. Unlike the dog in the story, who can rely on its pure-bred arctic instinct as it navigates through the dangerous tundra, the anonymous man possesses a duller, myopic instinct which is unable foresee the consequentiality of the environment. This instinctual flaw in mankind (relative to that of a husky) is a given, but the man fails to compensate by integrating intellectuality into his journey....   [tags: London To Build a Fire Essays]
:: 5 Works Cited
2560 words
(7.3 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Stephen Crane's The Open Boat and Jack London's To Build A Fire Essay - Stephen Crane's The Open Boat and Jack London's To Build A Fire Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat” speaks directly to Jack London’s own story, “To Build A Fire” in their applications of naturalism and views on humanity. Both writers are pessimistic in their views of humanity and are acutely aware of the natural world. The representations of their characters show humans who believe that they are strong and can ably survive, but these characters many times overestimate themselves which can lead to an understanding of their own mortality as they face down death....   [tags: Literacy Analysis ]
:: 2 Works Cited
2312 words
(6.6 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Survival in the Wild: Jack London's To Build a Fire and Arthur Gordon's Sea Devil - Anxiety, suspense, hesitation, and death; these all revolve around survival, which lets humans go over their limits and see what they’re really capable of. Survival is a mix of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. Though there are many stories that challenges man over his abilities, there are two stories that show survival that question our dominance as human beings. “To Build a Fire” by Jack London and “Sea Devil” by Arthur Gordon are both about characters that have caught themselves in a battle between man and nature....   [tags: Survival, Man vs Nature, Analysis]
:: 2 Works Cited
896 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on Epiphany in to Build a Fire - An Analysis of the Man’s Epiphany in "To Build a Fire" The short story "To Build a Fire," written by Jack London, is a tragic tale of an overconfident, inexperienced man traveling through the brutal, sub-freezing conditions of the Yukon with only the companionship of a dog. The man, un-named in this story, arrogantly decides to break from the main trail to take a less traveled route against the advice of the seasoned old-timer of Sulfur Creek, who warns of traveling alone in such severe conditions....   [tags: Jack London] 955 words
(2.7 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Comparing the Two Versions of To Build a Fire Essay - Comparing the Two Versions of To Build a Fire "I am absolutely confident that beyond the motif itself, there is no similarity of treatment whatever" (544). Jack London, writing in December 1908, was responding to an inquiry from the Richard W. Gilder, editor of Century Magazine. Gilder, having just published "To Build a Fire" in his magazine, was worried when he came across another version published 6 years earlier. London's explanation was that the first story was for boys and the new one was for men; the only similarity being the motif itself....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays] 1093 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Analysis of Jack London's "To Build a Fire" - In Jack London's "To Build a Fire" we see a classic story of man against nature. In this story, however, nature wins. One reason that this is such a compelling and engrossing story is the vivid descriptions of the environment the nameless main character endures. Plot and characterization are brief, and the theme is simple. Yet this story is still a very popular story, and it has a mysterious quality that makes it great. Jack London starts early in the story to set a foreboding feeling: "Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little traveled trail led eastward through the fa...   [tags: World Literature] 595 words
(1.7 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
To Build a Fire, by Jack London Essay - No one plans on or even wants to lose their life due to an unfortunate mishap. Isn’t it better to check twice and thoroughly plan ahead as opposed to finding oneself in an unfortunate situation. No wonder mothers ask so many questions; they leave no scope for misunderstanding. Jack London’s “To Build A Fire,” both 1902 and 1908 versions, cause distress in readers’ minds and make them wonder how a simple topic of surviving in the cold can turn out so horrific. A handful of alterations were made to the original version of the story; some add a completely new meaning, while others only provide slight nuances....   [tags: To Build a Fire, Jack London]
:: 1 Works Cited
887 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]

Related Searches




Those were the elements that the man lacked. It was a shame that the protagonist had to suffer and die in order to find out that man's fraille body cannot withstand nature's harsh elements in spite of his over-confident, psychological strength.

Work Cited

May, Charles E. "To Build A Fire': Physical Fiction and Metaphysical Critics". Studies In Short Fiction 15 (1978): 19-24

Sipiora, Phillip. Reading and Writing About Literature. New Jersey: Pearson, 2002


Return to 123HelpMe.com