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Summary and the central idea

The central idea as depicted by the story ‘To Build A Fire’ by Jack London is a conflict of survival between man and nature, which comes forth through youth’s perception of confidence as opposed by experience and wisdom. These conflicts exhibit through the man’s egotism and confidence in trying to defy nature by ignoring basic facts of nature. The man tries hard to reach the agreed destination at the specified time, but the thick ice in his pathway makes his journey impossible. At this point, the man tries all possible tricks to overcome the status of his environment to survive, but nature proves him wrong.

Character analysis

The “man” is the main character, who is not given a name. The man’s goal is to reach the old mine camp and meet his “boys” by travelling a nine-hour path full of deep-frozen ice. The man greatest mistake is his inability to think about future consequences of his present action, which were depicted when the narrators says that “he knew that a fifty below spittle cracked on the snow, but this spittle had cracked in the air’ (London, 7). The man did not evaluate how dangerous his present actions would be; hence, his ignorance led to accidents that caused his demise. The other character is the dog. The dog is the only companion that the man had, but contrary to the man the dog uses his instinct and keen sense of smell to survive. This portrays when the dog goes to a nearby camp of men, where he could get warmth and food because it could not provide these items on his own.

Conflict and resolution

The main conflict in the story is man versus nature and man versus death. Man conflicts with nature by struggling to survive in the ice filled wilderness. His lack of appropriate supplies and food forces him to succumb to the forces of nature. On the other hand, the man’s conflict with death depicts when the man comes to terms with his own death after going through different stages and struggle. He regrets not heeding to old-timer’s advice; hence, he becomes depressed. He is then engulfed by panic and tries to make his last survival attempt, but he fails. At this point he accepts death as certain and tries to meet it with dignity.

The point of view

Ideally, the point of view is a technique used in narrated stories to show the reader who is telling the story. In this case, Jack London uses the third-person point of view to tell the story; hence, he is omniscient. The third-person point of view used in the story tells the readers what the dog is thinking by contrasting it to what the man is thinking. For instance, the narrator asserts that it knew that it was no time for traveling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment” (London, 9). More so, the narrator’s third-person exhibits when he steps in to judge the man harshly.

The setting

The story is set in a place called Yukon, Alaska. The setting took place during the famous great Klondike gold rush, where huge masses of people flocked Alaska’s Yukon Territory in search of instant gold fortunes. It is at this time that many young men including the character in the story faced very harsh conditions in the wilderness on their journey towards the mine camp.

The setting affects the story by emphasizing on the place and reason of conflict in the story. Therefore, the setting sets the mood of the story and depicts how the characters were affected by the specific time or period. Additionally, the setting clarifies the central idea because it outlines the basic platform of the conflict.



Work cited

London, Jack. To Build a Fire. Mankato, Minn: Creative Education, 2008. Print.

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