“To Build a Fire” written by Jack London in 1908, is a story of a man, who, left unnamed, sets out to traverse a dangerous trail in the Yukon territory near the end of nineteenth century. Accompanied only by a dog, t¬¬he man travels across the trail, risking his life with every step on the snow-laden path full of frozen ice-water traps. He falls into a trap and wets his feet, incurring the possibility of frostbite. The man manages to build a fire, but it is shortly extinguished by snow that falls from a tree. After another failed attempt and a loss of supplies, the man succumbs to the cold and accepts his death. The story is written about a decade after the onset of the Yukon Gold Rush of 1898, when thousands of prospective fortune-finders rushed to dig up gold with little regard for the environment of the region. Although London does not mention the event in the context of the story itself, the setting and plot of the story is too similar to what an expectant miner may have enc¬ountered during the Yukon Gold Rush for this to be a mere coincidence. During the Earle Labor, a reputable biographer, suggests that London’s main motive behind writing “To Build a Fire” was to alert men to the dangers of nature (Labor). Without much respect for nature, prospectors had been rushing to amass a fortune during the gold rush, but they often neglected the dangers posed by nature. Men were facing the same fate as the man in London’s story because they did not understand the extent of nature’s power due to their arrogance or inexperience. Jack London wrote “To Build a Fire” with the intent to educate men to know and respect the dangers of nature after his first-hand experience in the Yukon Gold Rush.
The Yukon Gold Rush, also inter...
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Rhodes, Karen. "To Build a Fire: Overview." Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle Watson. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994.Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
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