My Account

Criticism of Jack London's To Build a Fire

Length: 472 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

Criticism of Jack London's To Build a Fire

In her critique of "To Build a Fire" Jill Widdecombe assesses the personality and motivation of the unnamed man in the story. Widdecombe suggests a story of mystery, intrigue, and rationalization.

I see it as a story about inner conflict and submit the mans inner conflict parallels Widdecombe's analogy of imagination versus rationalization. The conflict in the story is two-fold; the man struggles between his will and reasoning and second with the man's desires and abilities.

The story places the man at odds with the elements, it is a conflict each of us may have encountered at one time in our lives. London in his writing attempts to simplify the ageless struggle by fashioning a tale that is understandable regardless of age.

The tale is told by a mysterious narrator, centering on a nameless man and a nameless dog. In fact the story could be about anyone attempting virtually anything pitting themselves against the forces of nature and disregard of sound advice. I do not see the man as a egotist however I do see a lack of cognitive reasoning.

The protagonist sets out in weather conditions far more severe then he could have imagined. He travels alone, except for the dog; ironically he is told by an old native to never travel alone when the weather is below fifty below. Disregarding the advice and reasoning while it is cold, it is bearable and appropriately dressed, the conditions are not life threatening. Unfortunately the weather and elements are the antagonist he faces.

Somewhere past the midpoint of his trek the man breaks through the ice and his legs and feet become wet. Knowing he must dry his socks and boots or he will freeze to death he builds a fire. While attempting to light the fire he begins to realize just how cold it must be yet he attempts to rationalize the situation and stay focused.

The man is quickly becoming disoriented and struggles onward to build a fire.

After apparently succeeding he is devastated when snow warmed by the fire falls out of the tree he built it under and extinguishes the flame. Realizing his folly he moves his kindling and realizes his ability to function in the elements is quickly fading.

The story is no different then a surfer believing they could ride a fifty foot wave, the wave it just a little bigger. Or a lone sailor attempting to cross the Atlantic alone because the journey is only a little further. These able body people never consider an order of magnitude, they just figure it is the same as they always do on a larger scale.


Widdicombe, Jill. An overview of "To Build a Fire," Exploring Short Stories, Gale Research, 1998. Literature Resource Center Database_ 16 Feb 2004. GALILEO

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Criticism of Jack London's To Build a Fire." 05 Dec 2016

Related Searches

Important Note: If you'd like to save a copy of the paper on your computer, you can COPY and PASTE it into your word processor. Please, follow these steps to do that in Windows:

1. Select the text of the paper with the mouse and press Ctrl+C.
2. Open your word processor and press Ctrl+V.

Company's Liability (the "Web Site") is produced by the "Company". The contents of this Web Site, such as text, graphics, images, audio, video and all other material ("Material"), are protected by copyright under both United States and foreign laws. The Company makes no representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the Material or about the results to be obtained from using the Material. You expressly agree that any use of the Material is entirely at your own risk. Most of the Material on the Web Site is provided and maintained by third parties. This third party Material may not be screened by the Company prior to its inclusion on the Web Site. You expressly agree that the Company is not liable or responsible for any defamatory, offensive, or illegal conduct of other subscribers or third parties.

The Materials are provided on an as-is basis without warranty express or implied. The Company and its suppliers and affiliates disclaim all warranties, including the warranty of non-infringement of proprietary or third party rights, and the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The Company and its suppliers make no warranties as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the material, services, text, graphics and links.

For a complete statement of the Terms of Service, please see our website. By obtaining these materials you agree to abide by the terms herein, by our Terms of Service as posted on the website and any and all alterations, revisions and amendments thereto.

Return to