Essay on Man vs. Environment in To Build a Fire by Jack London

Essay on Man vs. Environment in To Build a Fire by Jack London

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One can express many different types of themes in Jack London’s, “To Build a Fire”. Though I feel strongly that London’s theme in the story is about that the environment shapes who we are because it shows that the man is not strong enough to live up to his environment. Allowing the environment to kill the man indicates that he is weak both mentally and biologically, while on the other hand the dog is stronger by surviving the same harsh environment. Instinct superior to reason is another theme that is highly portrayal able in London’s story. In order for the dog to survive and the man to die, the dog required instinct, of which the man lacked. The man did acquire reason and observance but not good enough to allow him to reach his goal makes it subordinate to instinct.
In the harsh environment of Yukon, Alaska, it determined what types of individuals both the man and dog were by pushing their limits. It is noticeable that the man has barely any control over his environment due to that he attempts to build a fire but fails at all times. The first time he builds his fire under the spruce trees, he does not evaluate the possibility of the snow falling from the tree onto the fire causing the fire to extinguish. London explains that “It was his own fault or mistake.” (London, 489) meaning that the reason as to why the snow fell from the tree could not be held a responsibility of the man but rather a mistake; due to that it is not his fault because he could not predict if the snow was going to fall or not but it is his mistake of building the fire there. I agree with London’s explanation because the man had no control to stop the snow from falling if he had, then it would have been considered his own fault, although he was still held r...


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...e forces of nature. London explains that also that you can not predict what will happen in an unknowable environment. Forces of that environment will be working against but it depends on what type of animal is present and if it is fit enough to live up to that environment. Man must be experienced to live in the harsh Yukon environment because he will be fit and will not encounter an unknown environment where only the worse will happen and will expect the unexpected. The story is based on naturalism because it is based on man vs. nature and the role of the environment is accentuated due to that it is the antagonist. The story is also based on realism because in actually such accounts do happen in the Yukon, Alaska in the Henderson Creek.


Works Cited
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, . Adventures in American Literature . Pegasus ed. Orlando, Florida: 1989. 485-93. Print.

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