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“To Build a Fire”

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“To Build a Fire” is a short story written by Jack London. It is viewed as a masterpiece of naturalist fiction. “To Build a Fire” features a miner who is traveling to the Yukon Territory with a dog as his companion. The miner is the protagonist and the dog companion is called the foil. The dog plays off of the traits of the protagonist. “The central motif of “To Build a Fire” concerns the struggle of man versus nature.” (Short Story Criticism) The most argued point in the short story is the reason of the protagonist death. “Some critics believe that it was his lack of intuition and imagination that lead to his death, while others say that he dies because of panic.” (Short Story Criticism) The protagonist in “To Build a Fire” struggles in the wilderness of the Yukon and ultimately finds his death because he lacks intuition and imagination.

“To Build a Fire” centralizes on a miner traveling to meet up with fellow miners. He does not make this journey with a fellow miner. He is followed by a “wolf-dog.” (London 2) The miner travels to the Yukon Territory in a temperature of seventy-five below zero. He judges the temperature by how fast his spit freezes. “At fifty below zero it freezes as it hits the ground. He ignores the deathly cold temperature, while the dog whines and whimpers due to the extreme cold.” (London 2) The miner is warned not to travel in the extreme cold, but he ignores the warnings and travels anyway. “The protagonist eventually meets his demise because of his decision.” (London 12)

Some Critics argue that the protagonist meets death because he panics because his inability to start a fire and find shelter. They feel that in his desperation for warmth he loses hope and self control. The man ponders on ideas for w...

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...nation. (Short Story Criticism) The cause of the protagonist harsh adventure begins because of his over confidence in him. He starts his adventure overconfident and unprepared. (Short Story Criticism) This way of thinking is the cause of the protagonist death in “To Build a Fire”. The Story’s ending shows the lack of intuition by the man falling into the sleep of death, and the superior intuition of the dog sensing death coming on the poor miner and heading off to find the cabin of the fallen miners comrades. (London 12)

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> London, Jack “To Build a Fire” Paperback, Bantam Classic & Loveswept, 1990
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