Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Analysis of "To Build a Fire"

The short story, "To Build A Fire" by Jack London, is a wonderful story about a man and his dog who go out into the Yukon in search for gold(London 601-614). During, this search unfortunately, the man and his fellow dog encounter very extreme weather conditions, and therefore are forced to have to deal with the battle to survive in the harsh conditions(London). Because the main conflict is between man and nature and so much of the story is focused on nature, this story would fit under the category of naturalism. Naturalism is a subset of realism that involves nature than anything in the story and usually ends up with a conflict between man and nature, or naturalism "has been devoted to documenting, with apparent objectivity, the extreme experiences of characters existing on the margins of society (Werlock "Naturalism")." This subject was actually partially influenced by writers such as Jack London himself along with some others as well. As the story progresses even though the battle against the weather or nature does not get that much worse for the man and his husky, it slowly wears the man down, doing a toll on him and his dog(London 601-614). The rest of the story is about the man abandoning his search for gold, and instead trying to find a shelter or some type of safety(London). To a reader it may seem pretty obvious from the beginning of the story that the man will have a battle with nature because of the foreshadowing that London gives with his early entries and even the title of the story, but in the end the story is not about the element of surprise, the naturalism is always about how strong someone can prove them self to be against nature, or becoming one with nature, as Jack London proves in textbook fashion, in his story "To build a Fire(Werlock, "Naturalism")." Not only does this story reflect naturalism because of the main conflict between man and nature, but it also represents simple realism by the way the Jack London uses simple language to portray his main message within the story(Werlock, "Naturalism"). For example, London quotes, "He held on through the level stretch of woods for several miles, crossed a wide flat of niggerheads, and dropped down a bank to the frozen bed of a small stream. This was Henderson Creek, and he knew he was ten miles from the forks. He looked at his watch. It was ten o'clock. He was making four miles an hour, and he calculated that he would arrive at the forks at half-past twelve. He decided to celebrate that event by eating his lunch there(London 607)." From this quote it is very easy to see the simple writing style that London uses to get his thoughts across to his readers. He does not use very complex writing at all, but at the same time, he tends to go into lots of detail about what the character is doing and what he is think to make the character seem almost life-like(Werlock, "Realism").


London, Jack. "To Build a Fire." American Literature. Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. Columbus: McGraw Hill, 2009. 601-614. Print. (Werlock, "Realism")

Werlock, Abby H. P. "naturalism." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= Gamshrtsty0501&SingleRecord=True (accessed February 16, 2011).

Werlock, Abby H. P. "realism." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Feb 15, 2011.

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