A Fire Not Built

1134 Words5 Pages
A Fire Not Built

“To Build a Fire”, a short story written by Jack London, is viewed as a masterpiece of naturalist fiction. “To Build a Fire” features a miner and his wolf-dog companion who are traveling in the Yukon Territory to meet fellow miners. The miner is the protagonist and the wolf-dog companion is the foil because the wolf-dog plays off of the traits of the protagonist. The central theme of “To Build a Fire” concerns the struggle of man versus nature. “To Build a Fire” tells of a man traveling in the extreme cold through the Yukon Territory. Before heading out on his journey, the man is warned not to travel alone in the extreme cold, but he travels any way. The man faces many hardships while on his journey. Despite his effort to stay warm and survive, the man freezes to death before he reaches his destination. The wolf-dog in the story studies the situation and knows that traveling is not a good idea. The wolf-dog stays with the miner until his death. Once the miner dies, the wolf-dog finishes his journey by heading off to the miners’ camp on his own. The most argued point of this short story is the reason for the protagonist’s death. Even though the miner in “To Build a Fire” eventually panics after being unable to start a fire, he struggles in the wilderness of the Yukon Territory and ultimately finds his death due to ignorance caused by a lack intuition and imagination.

Contrary to the idea of the miner dieing because of lack of intuition and imagination, critics say that he dies because of panic (Short Story Criticism). The theory of the miner dieing because of panic is faulty. Evidence shows that the miner panics, but he does not do so until the end of the story. At the beginning of his journey the miner shows ...

... middle of paper ...

...he danger of the journey, but the man is unaware of the harshness of the environment and continues onward in the journey. In this short story there is a connection between the miner’s death and his lacking intellect. The Story’s ending shows the lack of intuition by the man falling into the sleep of death, and the superior intuition of the wolf-dog sensing death coming on the poor miner, and heading off to find the cabin of the miner’s comrades. The miner ultimately dies because of his lack of decisions he makes on his journey in the Yukon Territory.

Works Cited

To Build a Fire, Jack London - Introduction." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Justin Karr Editor. Vol. 49. Gale Cengage, 2002. eNotes.com. 2006. 22 Jan, 2010 build-fire-jack-london> Web

London, Jack “To Build a Fire” , Bantam Classic & Loveswept, 1990 Web
Open Document