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To Build a Fire: Revealing the Man

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Essay title: To Build a Fire: Revealing the Man

The story To Build a Fire demonstrates possible dangers of traveling in the Yukon under extreme cold. Through a young man, Jack London depicts the consequences of ignoring instinct and survival advice. The man travels with a dog, who can perceive the dangers of the freezing wilderness. The reader learns of the man’s personality through descriptive words and phrases while journeying through the story.

At the beginning of the story the man turned aside from the main trail. He stopped at the top of a bank and looked over the landscape. The day was clear, yet the narrator says there exists an “Intangible pall” over things (London 920). Intangible means, incapable of being perceived by the senses, or being realized. A pall is a dark covering, often associated with funerals. The covering is usually a dark cloth of some sort. The narrator exposes an unperceived sense of death in the air. The absence of sunlight causes the weather to be gloomy (London 920). By using the descriptive phrase “intangible pall”, London puts a perfect picture of what the land and atmosphere look and feel like. He could be predicting the man’s death, almost like warning the reader about events to come.

The dog gave off many clues in the beginning that the weather was far too cold. The narrator informs that the dog experienced a “menacing apprehension” as the dog followed along (London 921). To have a “menacing apprehension” means the dog was threatened by anticipation of future misfortunes. The dog sensed what could happen when weather became so cold. The man should have paid closer attention to the signals the dog gave. The dog’s instinct told the animal that traveling was a bad idea and they should not be out there.

The man’s welfare begins to decline when he got wet and needed to build another fire to dry out. The man knows that building a fire is “imperative” at seventy below zero (London 925). Imperative means something impossible to avoid or deter from. The use of such a strong word creates a greater urgency and has an impact on the reader. By knowing the importance of building a fire, the man demonstrates some knowledge of surviving in the wilderness.

Although the man seems to know a few survival skills, he is foolish to travel alone in seventy below zero weather. After building a successful fire, the man mocks the old-timers at Sulphur Creek. He called the old-timers “womanish” for saying no man should travel alone after fifty below. The man says “any man who was a man could travel alone” (London 926). Obviously the man possesses overconfidence in his abilities to travel in the Yukon. He gives the impression of a young man who does what he wishes regardless of what elders say. By calling the old-timers “womanish” he shows immaturity and arrogance. Later on the man’s arrogance leads to his death.

The man built his fire underneath a large tree. Each time he took a twig from the tree, he slightly disrupted the snow cover on the branches. To emphasize

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