A Critique of Jack London's To Build a Fire

A Critique of Jack London's To Build a Fire

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A Critique of Jack London's To Build a Fire


Karen Rhodes analyzed to build a fire in a cultural context. He believed "London's works were written so that he could survive in a world he increasingly came to see as "red in tooth and claw""(1). It is obviously the story of a man fighting the stresses of Nature. According to Rhodes, to build a fire was drawn from the year London spent in Canada's Yukon Territory. London depicted arctic and very cold conditions throughout the story. Rhodes believed to build a fire represented London's Naturalistic Flavor. "It pits one man alone against the overwhelming forces of nature"(Karen Rhodes, 1). He also believed to build a fire can either be interpreted as the Pioneer American experience or can be read as an allegory for the journey of human existence (Karen Rhodes, 1). According to Rhodes, there are two versions of to build a fire; the first one was written in 1902 while the second one was written in 1908. We are studying the 1908 version." It has come to be known as everyman trekking through the Naturalistic Universe"(Karen Rhodes, 1). To build a fire is indeed the story of a man trekking through the universe alone except for his dog. The man's death at the end was the culmination of the story. " His death came through no lapse of observation, no lack of diligence, no real folly but the nature of himself and his environment" (Karen Rhodes, 2). I think his is a fine criticism of London's to build a fire. London had made use of his life experiences in writing the story.

I agree with Karen Rhodes observation that to build afirecan be interpreted as the story of a man in the journey of human existence. However, I think her view of to build a fire as an American experience comes from the fact that she is an American. I agree with her theory that the Man's death in the end was due to the nature of the man and his environment. The protagonist in to build a fire did nor have any grasp of the danger he was in. he tried to reason himself through it all. He thought, " Maybe, if he ran on, his feet will thaw out; and anyway if he ran far enough, he would reach camp and the boys. (Jack London, 157).

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However, his reasoning could not save him. It is a compelling narrative.

According to Rhodes, "London claimed that he wrote as he spoke"(2). To build a fire was a fine narration. Jack London indeed wrote as if he was narrating a story to the readers of the essay. The death of the man at the end was a sad ending to the struggle and suspense of the story.

1. Rhodes, Karen "To build a fire: Overview." Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1st Ed. Noelle Watson, St James, 1994 .

2. London, Jack. "To build a fire." Sipiora, Phillip, " Reading and Writing about Literature" Ed Leah Jewell,1st ed Upper Saddle River, New Jersey

Pearson Education inc, 2002, 149-158
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