When Jack London wrote “To Build a Fire” he embraced the idea of naturalism because it mirrored the events of daily life. Naturalism showed how humans had to be wary at every corner because at anytime death could be there, waiting for them to make a mistake and forfeit their lives. He used naturalism, the most realistic literary movement, to show how violent and uncaring nature really is and how no matter what you do nature will always be there. London also presented the basic idea of Darwinism and the survival of the fittest, basically if you are dumb you will die. Collectively, London used naturalism to show how in life, humans can depend on nothing but themselves to survive.Order now
“To Build a Fire” is a short story that embodies the idea of naturalism and how, if one is not careful, nature will gain the upper hand and they will perish. When the narrator introduced the main character of the story, the man, he made it clear that the man was in a perilous situation involving the elements. The man was faced with weather that was 75 degrees below zero and he was not physically or mentally prepared for survival. London wrote that the cold “did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold.”(p.1745) At first when the man started his journey to the camp, he felt certain that he could make it back to camp before dinner.
As the trip progressed, the man made mistake after mistake that sealed his fate. The man’s first mistake was to step into a pool of water and soak his legs to the knees. This blunder forced the man to build a fire to dry his wet socks and shoes so his feet would not freeze and become frostbitten. When the man began to build a fire he failed to notice that he was doing so under a large, snow laden spruce tree where he was getting his firewood. When the man had a small fire that was beginning to smolder the disturbance to the tree caused the snow to tumble to the ground and extinguish the fire. “It was his own fault or, rather, his mistake.
He should not have built the fire under the spruce tree. He should have built it in the open.”(1750). That minor detail of the critical placement of the fire ultimately cost the man his life. The third mistake the man made was that he removed his gloves for an extended period and his hands became completely numb. When the man was trying desperately to re-light the fire he removed his gloves and lost all feeling in his hands.
If he had remained calm and thought about his situation he might have had a chance to survive. Nature showed no mercy when the man attempted to re-light the fire using only his palms, and he failed. “He was losing his battle with the frost. It was creeping into his body from all sides.”(1754) The man’s unfortunate mistakes cost him his life and nature felt no sympathy for him. He was just another man who failed to defeat nature for one more day.
If the man had brought along a companion for the journey like the old man in the town had suggested he would still be alive. However, his stubbornness would not submit to that. “The old-timer on Sulfur Creek was right, he thought in the moment of controlled despair that ensued: after fifty below, a man should travel with a partner.”(1752). Instead the man brought a wolf dog with him to keep him company. The only thing that the dog was good for was as an outlet for the man’s jealously when he realized all the mistakes he had made.
The man envied how the dog could just sit in the snow and his warm fur would protect him from the elements. The mistakes that the man made reflect everyday life by showing how just one accident or miscalculation can cost you your life.
Naturalism utilized the environment to .