Modern Lit. PaperSignificance of Words Dying and Death in “To Build a Fire Essay”Dying and Death in “To Build a Fire”The significance of the words “dying and death” in Jack London’s 1910novel, “To Build a Fire” continuously expresses the man’s dwindling warmthand bad luck in his journey along the Yukon trail to meet “the boys” atcamp. London associates dying with the man’s diminishing ability to staywarm in the frigid Alaskan climate. The main characters predicament slowlyworsens one level at a time finally resulting in death.
The narrator informs the reader “the man” lacks personal experiencetravelling in the Yukon terrain. The old-timer warned the man about theharsh realities of the Klondike. The confident main character thinks ofthe old-timer at Sulphur Creek as “womanish. ” Along the trail, “the man”falls into a hidden spring and attempts to build a fire to dry his socksand warm himself. With his wet feet quickly growing numb, he realizes hehas only one chance to successfully build a fire or face the harshrealities of the Yukon at one-hundred nine degrees below freezing. Fallingsnow from a tree blots out the fire and the character realizes “he had justheard his own sentence of death.Order now
” Jack London introduces death to thereader in this scene. The man realizes “a second fire must be builtwithout fail. ” The man’s mind begins to run wild with thoughts ofinsecurity and death when the second fire fails. He recollects the storyof a man who kills a steer to stay warm and envisions himself killing hisdog and crawling into the carcass to warm up so he can build a fire to savehimself. London writes, “a certain fear of death, dull and oppressive, came to him.
“As the man slowly freezes, he realizes he is in serious trouble and can nolonger make excuses for himself. Acknowledging he “would never get to thecamp and would soon be stiff and dead,” he tries to clear this morbidthought from his mind by running down the trail in a last ditch effort topump blood through his extremities. The climax of the story describes “the man” picturing “his body completelyfrozen on the trail. ” He falls into the snow thinking, “he is bound tofreeze anyway and freezing was not as bad as people thought. There were alot worse ways to die. ” The man drowsed off into “the most comfortable andsatisfying sleep he had ever known.
” The dog looked on creeping closer,filling his nostrils with the “scent of death. “London’s portrayal of the man does not initially give the reader the themeof dying, but slowly develops the theme as the story develops. The storydoesn’t mention death until the last several pages. The main characterchanges from an enthusiastic pioneer to a sad and desperate man. Theconclusion of the story portrays the man accepting his fate and understandsthe old-timer at Sulphur Creek had been right; “no man must travel alone inthe Klondike after fifty below.
” Typically, short stories written in theearly 1900’s often conclude the story with a death or tragedy. London’sstory is no exception. This story follows the pattern by illustratingevents leading up to and including death. Thesis Statement- The significance of the words “dying and death” in JackLondon’s 1910 novel, “To Build a Fire” continuously expresses the man’sdwindling warmth and bad luck in his journey along the Yukon trail to meet”the boys” at camp.