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Critical Analysis of “To Build a Fire” by Jack London


The man’s endeavors to get by in the unpleasant cold and his dog’s simple surrender show nature’s indifference in light of human misery. In To Build a Fire, London utilizes literary devices such as symbolism, setting, and character portrayal to make the topic of the work through the formalist critics. The strength of his style, structure, composting method and construction enables the substance of this brief tale, and this strength is a trait of formalism. This story’s central theme illustrates realism and naturalism, which uncover the principal issue of man’s battle against nature.

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To Build a Fire is the narrative of an excavator who has gone to the Yukon to discover gold. He decides to go toward his camp on a chilly, windy evening ignoring warnings from knowledgeable people. He falls through some ice and considers continuing, requiring building a fire to warm himself. Tragically, his fire comes up short, and the man winds up sticking to death. At the point when it is clear the man is dead, his dog abandons him, heading for the glow and food of the mining camp.



To illustrate the naturalist development, London’s To Build a Fire presents a force battle among people and nature. The focal topic of the story is, by all accounts, the fight between man and the natural world. The preeminent struggle of the story is that of endurance in outrageous conditions. The dog’s instincts tell it that “the man does not believe the cold to be a serious danger,” however the man does not perceive it as an actual problem (London 8). The low temperature appears to him as something endurable. His insight into the weather and landscape does not help him against the brutal winter since he trusts his strength. At the start of the story, the storyteller remarks that “he was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances” (London 3). There is a scholarly cacophony in the man’s capacity to apply his insight to good endurance. He does not see the very low temperature as a risk but as a minor issue. The man cannot recognize the risk in the regular habitat, and that absence of awareness becomes his demise.


Realism represents that a choice of a person comes from his reaction to a specific circumstance. Realism is the disposition of rehearsing or tolerating a circumstance as it is ready to manage it as needs be. One illustration of realism is when the man walks light with no sled, so he does not need to take a lot with him. He does not have the food or supplies to keep him alive in low temperatures. This is an incredible illustration of realism since it is reality and does not relieve the story.

A solid part of realism is also displayed toward the story’s finish, as the man passes on and the dog is left alone. This dismal and shocking completion of a story after such a long struggle and devotion is an indicator of realism. In To Build a Fire, London shows readers that nature’s actual worth lies in its dispassion to humankind. The man’s musings make no difference even with the alarming signals from the cold Yukon if he has a creative mind.

Formalism Criticism

The questions to ask about the story are the following:

  • How does the setting create a tone for the story?
  • What is the role of symbolism in portraying the theme?
  • How does nature influence the main character’s decisions?

I decide to implement the formalist analysis in responding to the interesting questions on the story. In To Build a Fire, symbolism, setting, and characterization are utilized to show the man’s ignorance. Formalist Criticism is various sorts of literary components that are found in the text. The subject and setting assume a major part in the story and what message London leaves to readers. In the chosen work, the setting is an important piece of the whole story. The picked setting by London makes a particular and hopeful mindset for his heartbreaking story. It is threatening and cold, which takes place in the wild. The person that London presents is secluded from the world. The man does not have a friend, just the husky that follows him. He additionally, all through the whole story, behaves like a wild animal. He continually would check out, looking out for outside risks similar as prey would do. London brings man battling with nature theme into his story by the depiction of the character.

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In conclusion, the focal theme of To Build a Fire concerns the battle of man versus nature. The story’s main character finds his end because of an absence of instinct or creative mind, incapable of imagining the chance of his demise. London depicts naturalism and realism as the fundamental themes when he writes about the character’s journey to his home. The writer composes a man whose goal and instinctive choices are foreordained naturally and more fragile than nature.

Work Cited

London, Jack. To Build a Fire. CreateSpace, 2009.

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