Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire” is regarded as one of the most brilliant examples of the naturalist movement. London tells a story about a man who freezes to death. The author reveals the idea that humans are too self-assured or naïve if they think they can conquer nature. The story is aimed to make people think of their place in the world. Remarkably, the author uses a bright symbol to communicate his idea. Thus, the fire symbolizes people’s attempts to conquer nature, to adjust everything to their needs. The fire symbolically faints which makes it clear that the author thinks people are nothing more than a part of the great system called nature.
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From the very start, the author articulates his major point saying that people should always think about “man’s frailty in general” and “man’s place in the universe” (London 1). It is necessary to note that the author explicitly conveys his idea using minimum characters. There is only the man, the dog, the fire and nature. The author also chooses the most appropriate type of narration. He tells a story that should become a lesson for many people. He chooses to narrate from the perspective of a wise man who wants to warn people.
As has been mentioned above, the author utilizes a single symbol to show the power of nature. It is important to note that the fire acquires several meanings in the story. For instance, it also symbolizes life as when the fire is gone, the man thinks he hears “his own sentence of death” (London 9). However, it is important to take a closer look at the story. It becomes clear that the author draws parallels between people’s attempts to conquer nature and the man’s attempts to build a fire. According to London, every people’s attempt is doomed to be a failure. Thus, the fire once built would still blot out.
The passage concerning the man’s first attempt to build a fire is very suggestive. The man builds a fire to keep himself warm. He understands the importance of his attempt. He tries to be as deliberate as possible. He gathers “sticks and twigs”, he builds “a foundation” for the fire (London 7). Seemingly, he does everything right. However, the man is unable to take into account everything. The man does not see that there is a danger that can jeopardize his attempt. Likewise, people do not see the whole picture. They are unable to foresee various scenarios. Therefore, lots of people’s attempts fail. Thus, the man’s fire is buried under “a mantle of fresh and disordered snow” (London 9).
To sum up, London’s short story “To Build a Fire” reveals the author’s ideas concerning the place of the human in the universe. Apparently, the author tries to warn people and to make people understand that it is impossible to conquer nature. The author uses a very conspicuous symbol to communicate his idea. The fire stands for people’s attempts which are doomed to fail as people cannot see the whole picture. It is necessary to add that the author achieves his goals and does make the reader think of the human’s place in the world. The reader inevitably thinks of the human frailty and the great power of nature. Hopefully, the story can help people make the right conclusions.
London, Jack. n.d. To Build a Fire. n.d. Web.