Significance of Words Dying and Death in "To Build a Fire"
Dying and Death in "To Build a Fire"
The significance of the words "dying and death" in Jack London's 1910
novel, "To Build a Fire" continuously expresses the man's dwindling warmth
and bad luck in his journey along the Yukon trail to meet "the boys" at
camp. London associates dying with the man's diminishing ability to stay
warm in the frigid Alaskan climate. The main characters predicament slowly
worsens one level at a time finally resulting in death.
The narrator informs the reader "the man" lacks personal experience
travelling in the Yukon terrain. The old-timer warned the man about the
harsh realities of the Klondike. The confident main character thinks of
the old-timer at Sulphur Creek as "womanish." Along the trail, "the man"
falls into a hidden spring and attempts to build a fire to dry his socks
and warm himself.
With his wet feet quickly growing numb, he realizes he
has only one chance to successfully build a fire or face the harsh
realities of the Yukon at one-hundred nine degrees below freezing. Falling
snow from a tree blots out the fire and the character realizes "he had just
heard his own sentence of death." Jack London introduces death to the
reader in this scene. The man realizes "a second fire must be built
without fail." The man's mind begins to run wild with thoughts of
insecurity and death when the second fire fails. He recollects the story
of a man who kills a steer to stay warm and envisions himself killing his
dog and crawling into the carcass to warm up so he can build a fire to save
London writes, "a certain fear of death, dull and oppressive, came to him."