To Build A Fire: Significance of Words “Dying” and “Death”The significance of the words “dying and death” in Jack London’s 1910 novel, “ToBuild a Fire” continuously expresses the man’s dwindling warmth and bad luck inhis journey along the Yukon trail to meet “the boys” at camp.
Londonassociates dying with the man’s diminishing ability to stay warm in the frigidAlaskan climate. The main characters predicament slowly worsens one level at atime finally resulting in death. The narrator informs the reader “the man” lacks personal experience travellingin the Yukon terrain. The old-timer warned the man about the harsh realities ofthe Klondike.
The confident main character thinks of the old-timer at SulphurCreek as “womanish. ” Along the trail, “the man” falls into a hidden spring andattempts to build a fire to dry his socks and warm himself. With his wet feetquickly growing numb, he realizes he has only one chance to successfully build afire or face the harsh realities of the Yukon at one-hundred nine degrees belowfreezing. Falling snow from a tree blots out the fire and the characterrealizes “he had just heard his own sentence of death.Order now
” Jack London introducesdeath to the reader in this scene. The man realizes “a second fire must bebuilt without fail. ” The man’s mind begins to run wild with thoughts ofinsecurity and death when the second fire fails. He recollects the story of aman who kills a steer to stay warm and envisions himself killing his dog andcrawling into the carcass to warm up so he can build a fire to save himself. 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 the campand would soon be stiff and dead,” he tries to clear this morbid thought fromhis mind by running down the trail in a last ditch effort to pump blood throughhis 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 to freezeanyway and freezing was not as bad as people thought. There were a lot worseways to die. ” The man drowsed off into “the most comfortable and satisfyingsleep he had ever known.
” The dog looked on creeping closer, filling hisnostrils with the “scent of death. “London’s portrayal of the man does not initially give the reader the theme ofdying, but slowly develops the theme as the story develops. The story doesn’tmention death until the last several pages. The main character changes from anenthusiastic pioneer to a sad and desperate man. The conclusion of the storyportrays the man accepting his fate and understands the old-timer at SulphurCreek had been right; “no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fiftybelow. ” Typically, short stories written in the early 1900’s often conclude thestory with a death or tragedy.
London’s story is no exception. This storyfollows the pattern by illustrating events 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 “theboys” at camp.Category: English .