"To Build a Fire: Does it meet Poe's requirements for a short story?"

Essay by ChickenFeedHigh School, 10th gradeA+, February 2004

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Jack London uses setting, plot, and theme in this short story, "To Build a Fire," to convey his message that nature will win every battle with humans. Fate and hopelessness place a man alone in the middle of the freezing Yukon trail where he meets his death.

London shows man's utter helplessness in the fight against nature by illustrating the setting in Alaska along the Yukon River. It is close to the end of winter, the sun not yet in the sky. "There seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark," but even this did not bother the man (London 1). This man's path was buried under three feet of snow and ice with a sub-zero temperature of -75º. London has a way of almost making the reader feel cold with the man just by his descriptions of the surrounding territory.

"The snow was all pure white, rolling in gentle undulations where the ice jams of the freeze-up had formed. North and south as far as his eye could see, it was unbroken white" (London 2). This settings show the fierceness of what nature has to offer. To increase the readers' awareness of the cold, London describes how the man's breath is freezing on his whiskers and beard and how the juice from his tobacco freezes in midair when he spits it out. The man's lack of attentiveness toward the unforgiving setting leads to his death. Amidst all of this ice, snow, and frigid weather, the man has no chance of survival. Through this, London explains man's hopelessness in the fight against nature.

A naturalistic attitude is shown through the plot of London's short story. Prior to embarking on his journey, the man is given the advice from...