Literary Criticism To Build A Fire
london doesn’t leave the reader to wonder when he says that, even though the fire may make other men comfortable, it really does burn up the man (7). the fire is as much a symbol of other people’s comfort as it is of the man’s own survival. the man is not without hope, but it will take some effort on his part to recover. he must actually do things like collect wood and blow smoke off his fingers to get warm again. the reader takes in the scene with the man and the dog at the close of the opening paragraph and immediately understands the nature of the situation, both for the man and the dog, and this is essential to the reader’s understanding of the meaning of this short story.
the fire is exhortatory. the man thinks he will build a fire and stay warm, and this he does. and as he does, he persists in doing whatever is necessary in order to build and keep a fire going. it may be difficult to do, but to do it over and over is even more difficult. those things must be done that allow a man to live and, in this case, survive. the man, in short, succeeds. he resists the cold and the odds and comes out the victor.
i believe jack london knew that the man was going to fail. that failure, however, was not the point of the story. the point was the way in which he succeeded in building a fire. he did not fail. he succeeded in building a fire. not only does he build a fire, but he keeps it going to stay warm. he does not just build a fire, he builds and keeps a fire, which allows him to stay alive. with this in mind, he is able to do a number of things: build his fire, blow smoke and sweat off his fingers, collect wood, dig a fire pit, and make a wind shelter (among others). london did not just want his reader to know that the man managed to survive through building a fire, but he wanted to show this reader just how difficult it was for the man to do the things he did in order to do this, so he gave the reader an idea of what these things were through his description of the man doing them and his use of the word impossible. it took the man’s physical, intellectual, and emotional strength to get through this, but this is exactly how he succeeded in building a fire.
the narrator tells us that its almost like living in a frozen world at this time and he explores other situations, this time relating it to a wider audience. he runs, he tries to find warmth or shelter and he slips. he can stand up and move, but is not sure what is going on. however, the author also, like the man in his story, would have me believe that survival is always preferable to death itself. this is the result of the melding of two approaches to life that emerge in the text. one way, is to find a way to survive when death is present. the other is to live when there is no risk of death. the way he personally sees it, the life that he would like to live, is what is meant by living well . he also seems to be aware of the terrible irony of the story as it is only the man who is dead, while the narrator and the dog survive unscathed. if this is a true statement, then is this because we, the readers, are less than them, or do we understand the story for what it is, a cautionary tale about taking unnecessary risks. this realisation causes him to accept death and gives way to an existential tragedy. this realisation is significant, because even though the man rejects a companion on the trail with whom he could have shared his fate, he eventually learns that we all have someone with whom we share survival. the rest of the story follows his break through the thin ice, the small fire he ignites, his travels after this point, and his eventual death. it is with great foreboding and in a state of horror that the man sees the numerous dead birds around him, including an owl. this indicates that there are unknown natural dangers waiting for the man in the form of death or sickness. even if he could build a fire, he would be very vulnerable to the elements as his small fire is already covered with ice. in addition, the man has, in essence, let the fire go out and has been drinking the last of his dwindling water supply. he is now close to death. in contrast to the man, the dog is quite happy to leave the man, even though the man is dying, and goes to another section of the stream to drink. this indicates that the dog is non-judgmental and will not be affected by the mans demise, such as an example of the bystanders in the story, the birds. this dog, whom he called toby, was obedient and sometimes whimpy, but there was no anger or malice in the dog. the dogs happiness is the result of his obedience and his non-judgemental attitude. he is ready to go anywhere and help anyone. the mans reaction to toby is to be scared. despite the mans continuous horror at the apparent end of the line, he wishes he were alone so that he can have someone to help him. but theres always someone to help you, even if its just yourself. in the end, the mans desires to survive drives him to die, allowing him to be in the moment. it is a positive way to look at his death, as it lets him focus on other things rather than his ongoing death. it leaves him to be free from life as he hopes to be free from the evil of the yukon 5ec8ef588b