In the short story To Build a Fire by Jack London, a man undergoes a lonely journey under the severe environment of the Yukon, attempting to avoid dangerous complications related to freezing temperatures. However, the traveler commits several crucial errors, which ultimately result in his demise. The first mistake made by the character is the dismissive attitude toward the advice of the old man at Sulphur Creek, who strongly recommended against traveling alone when the temperature is below 50 degrees. Another misconduct is evident in the rash decision to build a fire under the spruce tree and gather necessary wood directly under its branches. Although this endeavor saved precious time, it was careless and resulted in the snow destroying the fire.
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During the journey, the man’s attitude towards the advice of others and the neglectful overview of the severe northern conditions were drastically altered. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist is incredibly confident in his capabilities, utterly sure that he can survive the cold. However, after soaking his feet, the man gradually changes his beliefs, concluding that he should have heeded the warning of the old man. Nonetheless, regardless of the character’s views, the ending of the story will always be inevitable due to the factors of human error and probability. Despite the circumstances, in a scenario where the slightest mistake can cost an individual’s life, the natural predisposition towards chance will always overwhelm the most efficient efforts.
Jack London perfectly employs the concept of naturalism in the short story, presenting the struggle of a man against nature. Detachment and harsh natural circumstances constitute the naturalistic approach, which states that nature will always govern the outcomes of human endeavors. The indifference of the natural world is represented in the dog’s attitude towards the traveler, as the animal views him only as a producer of fire, leaving after his death in search of other providers.