Jack London's "To Build a Fire" deals with man's struggle with nature.

Essay by coloradosilver October 2003

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Building a Fire to Fight Nature

Jack London's title for the story "To Build a Fire" starts the reader off with a very basic idea; building a fire. Almost anyone can build a fire. All it takes is a match and some kindling. London's story is about more then building a fire, though. This story is about a man's belief in himself, self-confidence and even arrogance, to such an extent that he doesn't recognize the power of nature around him. London's story is more like a "Man against Nature" story. London's "To Build a Fire" casts a clear image that in the ever long-lasting battle between man and nature, nature is not a force that should be reckoned with. The author's characters are even very general. The main character of the story is never given a name except to be called a "chechaqua" or newcomer in the land.

"The constant struggle of Man against the natural world and physical forces which threaten to undo him at any moment is expressed greatly by this story."(Colin) This is not a story about one individual person or one isolated incident, but a story used to illustrate a larger continuous gamble or battle between man and nature.

London spends the first few paragraphs setting the physical scene. The setting is in Alaska along the Yukon River. It is close to the end of winter but the sun is still not yet in the sky. It is mentioned that this does not bother the man. The rest of the setting is described around the man and the places he has passed on this current journey and where else the trail leads in other directions. The description of the scenery is one of the most intriguing aspects of this story. London had...