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Life Theme in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”

The short tale tells the story of a man who tried to journey alone across the harsh world of the Yukon in sub-freezing conditions and becomes a victim of fate. He despised an old man's warning about traveling alone in the freezing temperatures, and as a result, he became a suspect. His feet became wet and slowly numbed, as did his hands and other areas of his body, until he lost hope of reaching the camp alive. A puppy had been trailing him the whole time, and it had a better understanding of how to survive in those frigid conditions than the guy did. The dog had followed the man because he knew that he could live as he experienced before when he was fed and kept warm by people who traversed the same environment.

The theme of life is exhibited best by the dog. It knew that it followed the man it would be fed and be kept warm, with the reason that no man could go through the wilderness without eating and lighting a fire for keeping warm. In its reasoning, the wolf-dog knew that if there was no fire, then it would dig into the snow to find warmer temperatures (London). And so whether the man was going to lit the fire or not, still the dog could live. It also knew the danger of having its feet wet at the incident where it could deep its feet into the streams, that’s why it quickly worked to remove the ice from its feet when the man forced it to go through to test if the ice on the stream would break (London, p.69). When the man lit the fire, the dog lay near it to get warmth but again with the precaution that it would burn if it didn’t give itself a safe distance from the fire. The fog knew the danger of leaving the fire to go again into the cold, but he could not stay put, for the fire could eventually die, but followed the man perhaps he could lit another fire and provide another meal.

In the second attempt by the man to build the fire, which failed, the dog grew more anxious and careful. Thus, when the man had the thought of killing the dog to get warm from its blood and internal organs to sustain him for the journey, the dog sensed danger even from his shaking voice and feared for its life. He tried to move closer to the dog, but it ran off fearing for its life until his voice became normal. In the second attempt to kill it, the man had no life in his hands to strangle it or even to draw a knife, and thus the dog escaped being killed (London, p.76, 77). In the hopeless situation the man tried running in order to generate heat for the body and prevent his body organs from freezing, as he ran, the dog also followed closely. But eventually the man was out breath and the camp was far to reach. He sat hopelessly on the ice as he noticed that his body organs were fast losing life.

The dog keenly looked at the man and tried to howl to wake him up in order to light the fire but the man never responded. As it drew closer it noticed the man had died and hopes on the man dashed, it ran off towards another camp it knew where there were food and fire providers who could save its life (London, p.79).

Works Cited

London, Jack. To Build a Fire. n.d.

September 01, 2021

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