Why The Cold Shoulder In Jack London's To Build A Fire
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Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”: Nature’s Cold Shoulder
The winter’s cold weather proved too much to bear for our young protagonist. His qualities make him an undeserving character (though his self-assurance proves him a formidable opponent). In the wilderness, every move is critical. Survival can only be achieved by making rational decisions and using every instinct. In Jack London's “To Build a Fire,” nature appears harsh and unforgiving as the man treks the Yukon with ill-judgment and unrefined instincts. The man is ultimately fighting for survival in a universe that is indifferent to his plight which is an earmark of naturalism.
London flawlessly captures the struggle between man…show more content… His less than admirable attributes foreshadow his ultimate failure in the Yukon. The man is described as “quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances” (2). The man does not think about whether he can survive the frigid cold weather. He simply embarks on his journey with the simple thought of “it certainly is cold.” The man notes that there is “no mistake” of the temperature, or says the temperature is “it was colder than 50 degrees below zero” (2) not taking into account the actuality of the weather and the detrimental toll it would later have on his trek. However, the temperature itself does not intend to kill the man; the temperature is a characteristic of nature that happens to be there. This means the man’s struggle lies within, and nature, being a formidable force, just happens to stand in the way, indifferent to his struggle and indeed to him as an individual altogether. The dog comprehends the foolish actions of the man as it is “disappointed” (5) when the imprudent man “took his comfortable time with a smoke” (5), showing the man’s ignorance to the situation. The narrator also describes the man as “without imagination” (2). To be “without imagination” means to possess thoughts only on the surface level. This man is shallow and does not think beyond the obvious circumstances. The weather is extremely cold, and he is freezing. That is all he knows. He may possess some common sense, but that is not enough to save his life. The man fails to adhere to given advice. This is proven when he builds the fire. It comes as a “shock” when the snow blankets over the flames of his fire that he unimaginatively built under trees. Also, when fear begins to set in, hope begins to draw out. The man loses his mind when “fear quickly became poignant” (10), which sets the ground for an even