Midterm Expository Essay; “To Build a Fire” The powerful story “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, is about the struggles ‘the man’ faces with nature. The man is supposed to be an average person, and although some people may hesitate they are as ignorant and arrogant as the man, many people do not understand the power of nature. The story is about the man traveling into the woods, armed with technology, but he just doesn’t understand how truely powerful nature can be to his survival. Nature has been around for thousands and thousands of years, and the man must die in order to prove that nature always wins.
First and foremost, the man came across as very narcissistic, and maybe even a little cocky. The text reads; “It did not lead him to meadiate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frality in general, able to live only within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man’s place in the universe. ” This obviously is pointing at the fact that he is so concerned with his own everyday life to simply think about his own insufficiencies in the eyes of nature.
It also demonstrates that he’s over confident. The man believes he is super strong, because he can’t see his own temperatural weaknesses as a mere human. This is significant because if the man continued living at the end of this story, it would seem as though he was strong enough to overcome the almighty nature, when in reality he’s just a small part of a much larger, more complex puzzle. In addition, I believe it’s very important for the man to die at the end of the story because he was warned not to venture off into the cold alone.
He clearly ignored the advice of the wise, and extremely experienced old-timer of Sulphur Creek. Here is a quote from the story to better explain; “Well, here he was; he had the accident; he was alone; and he had saved himself. Those old-timers were rather womanish, some of them, he thought. All a man had to do was keep his head, and he was all right. ” The man is ignorant; he doesn’t see the big picture of nature, and just because he “keeps his head,” doesn’t mean in any way he is powerful enough to overcome and defeat nature. He certainly needs to die in order to prove how ature has a direct effect on his life or death. Finally, the man tries to kill the dog, and the dog is a symbol of nature. When he attempts to do this, he is unconsciously trying to kill nature itself. This is an impossible task, because the dog has an upperhand; instinct. No matter how hard he fights, the man won’t be able to overcome nature, because he is ignorant and nature is powerful. The dog doesn’t need to use a thermometer, he has instincts and he relys on these. Therefore, the man must die in order to prove the fact that nature ultimately defeated him, not vice versa.
In conclusion, the man dying at the end of “To Build A Fire” was the best ending possible. He is a very self-concerned being. In order to survive, he needs to be aware that nature has many living things in it; you can’t be so focused on your own personal agenda. The man was also given useful advice from someone who has experienced nature for many years, and he went against the wise advice. Ultimately, he tries to kill the dog, who is a symbol of nature. He is unable to do so, and eventually dies from the cold. The death of the man clearly illustrates the theme of the story; man’s arrogance and the power of nature.