"To Build A Fire" written by Jack London.

Essay by gothikalCollege, Undergraduate July 2003

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The man in the story shows very little interest in applying his awareness of setting to determine his actions. He fails to take any of the precautions he was told to take. He makes several drastic mistakes--mistakes he was aware he shouldn't make--which causes his death.

As a newcomer to the harsh Yukon winter, the main character makes a devastating mistake when he ignores an essential rule of Arctic survival by deciding to voyage alone along a wilderness trail during a period of astringent cold. "The old-timer had been very serious in laying down the law that no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below." By being unfamiliar with his setting, and foolishly imagining that all he would have to do to survive "was to keep his head," the man exposes himself to the callous laws of nature.

A second mistake the man makes is to journey along the path of a frozen creek bed.

"The creek he knew was frozen clear to the bottom--no creek could contain water in that arctic winter--but he knew also that there were springs that bubbled out from the hillsides and ran along under the snow and on top of the ice of the creek." Later he comments that these hidden springs were "traps" and that a man could break through "sometimes wetting himself to the waist." This time the man ignores his own familiarity of the wilderness setting, and later in the day his own worst scenario comes true--he falls through thin snow-covered ice, wetting his feet in a spring.

The third and final mistake the man makes comes about as a result of the dread he feels as his wet feet quickly freeze in the frosty air. Realizing that his only hope is to build a fire, he scuttles...