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The Winter Wonderland in Jack London’s to Build a Fire

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The Winter Wonderland In Jack London’S To Build A Fire

No matter what type of story you are reading, setting always plays a key element in producing the desired effect. Jack London’s short story To Build A Fire provides an excellent example of this. In this story, a man hikes across a snow and ice covered plane towards the encampment where he is supposed to meet up with more travelers like himself. The setting of this story is one of the northernmost most areas of the earth, the Yukon. The man must hike across this area for approximately thirty-six miles before he reaches the camp at which he is expected. The constantly dropping temperature further complicates the man’s hike. When he begins his journey at nine o’clock in the morning it is at the day’s high of fifty degrees, below.

At the man’s time of death the temperature had made a sharp drop to seventy-five below. This setting brings a sense of harsh reality and an idea of how fragile the human body is to the piece. In this story, the setting carries more than one function. It could be said that the setting acts like a double-edged sword. On one side, it provided for the man. As London put it “tangled in the underbrush about the trunks of several spruce trees, was a high-water deposit of dry firewood-sticks and twigs, principally, but also larger portions of seasoned branches and fine, dry, last year’s grasses”(London 123). These types of tinder were perfect for constructing a fire, which was necessary for the man ‘s survival. On the other side, “man’s frailty” and his ability “only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold” were both put to the test as nature tormented the man as he made his journey across the Yukon (London 118).

It is this kind of action, which makes the setting an adversary and a companion for the protagonist of the story. As far as plot is concerned the setting plays as large a role as the wandering man does. The plot of the story is a simple one:

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