In To Build a Fire, Jack London uses many details of setting to illustrate
the gravity of the protagonists situation. The story is a detailed
description of the dangers of intense cold and the stages involved in the
process of freezing to death. The man in to build a fire is a very
dogmatic and arrogant person who believed in his own abilities and took
everything at face value. He didnt analyze and scrutinize over every detail.
He definitely wasnt one to philosophize and his conceptions were rooted in
the tangible not the surreal.
At the end, though, he realizes his own
deficiencies and finally dies. The magnitude of the mans situation is fully
illustrated and established through Londons descriptions of the landscape,
snow, ice, and intense cold. The height of Londons graphic portrayal is the
storys explicit description of the intense cold of the arctic winter that the
man is travelling through. The sharp, explosive crackle(pg. 119 para. 2)
that occurred in the air before the mans spit could even hit the snow is just
an example of the vicious cold that the man was travelling through.
moisture of the mans breathing that forms ice on his beard and mustache. The
crystal beard of the color and solidity of amber(pg. 120 para. 1) that
transpires when the man chews tobacco and the speed in which the mans
appendages become numb and unusable are further examples of Londons account
of the cold. The journey through the unbroken white north and south, as far
as the eye could see (paragraph 2) was another striking account of the
wonderful use of setting in this story. Without a doubt, the concept of a world
of ice is a major factor in the greatness of this story undermined only by
Londons graphic depiction of the mans death.
This is depicted in great
detail throughout the latter part of the story. The terrain of the Yukon, to the
man, is just an obstacle that could easily be overcome with knowledge of your
surroundings and a pragmatic attitude, but in truth it is the executioner of the
man. The anxiety of falling in the water, the relief when the fire is built, and
the shock when it is put out are all situations that build to the tension of the
story. The panic when he is unable to build a second fire and the conclusion
that is bound to happen are more thoroughly realized when the man is unable to
even light a match. The wild rush through the snow and the idea to kill his dog
to use its body as warmth are further graphic details of the break down of the
man. The innovation of meeting death with dignity(pg.
128 para. 3) is the
final stage to the mans realization that he was to die. The idea to sleep
off to death(pg.128 para. 3) and the statement, Freezing was not so bad as
people thought. There were lots worse ways to die.
is an additional step
towards the conclusion we had all suspected when the fire was put out. The
setting is further developed by these accounts and the harshness of the Arctic
winters are even more realized. Thus, Londons setting within the unfeeling
Yukon is both descriptive and arousing. The major action takes place after the
fire is put out, leading to the climax of the story when the man begins his
realization that death had found him. In this way, London uses setting to show
the extent of the mans situation and the death that will surely follow if you
underestimate it. The events of the story, the unrelenting cold, and the mans
final death are all tied together by Londons expert control of setting.
English Essays .