All fails, and the man ends up

All alone in the Canadian wilderness, with only a dog for company, a young miner struggles to build a fire to keep warm.

But when the fire fails, a decision the man makes will put his very life on the line.

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Loyalty and Pride

When it comes right down to it, what is loyalty? What price does pride collect? These questions are examined in the short story To Build a Fire. A man, alone against the Canadian winter, learns that nature is the most formidable enemy of all.

This lesson will focus on the climax, theme, and analysis of ‘To Build a Fire’ by Jack London.

To Build a Fire

To Build a Fire is the story of a young miner who has come to the Yukon to find gold. He is traveling toward his camp on a cold, windy afternoon, against the advice of a seasoned miner. He falls through some ice and gets his feet wet, necessitating building a fire to dry off and warm up.

Unfortunately, his fire fails, and the man ends up freezing to death. When it is clear he’s dead, his dog deserts him, heading for the warmth and food of the mining camp.

The man is unable to build a fire to save his life
Snow falls from the branches, putting out the fire
The brutal Canadian winter is the undoing of the man
Canadian Winter

The tone is directly related to the setting. The story is told is a passionless way, relating the events objectively. We don’t hear any sympathy from the narrator, either for the dog or the miner, and there is only a small lesson learned for the reader: don’t underestimate nature.And this leads directly into the final lesson.

In nature, it’s take care of yourself or die trying. The dog is not loyal to the man past his death; it leaves the man dead in the snow and heads off toward camp.

Lesson Summary

Jack London‘s story To Build a Fire is the sad tale of a young miner who underestimates the brutal conditions of the setting in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Against the advice of a more seasoned miner, the young man sets out in weather that is lower than 50 degrees below zero, heading for another mining camp.He never makes it. The man’s pride has been his downfall.

He is unable to survive in the wilderness and cold, and when his fire goes out, the man decides to kill his dog to warm his hands. But he cannot kill the dog, and freezes to death. The dog, showing its loyalty is to itself and not to the man, leaves the man’s body and goes on to the camp, looking for a meal and a fire. The objective tone of the story gives no sympathy to the man or dog, and instead instills this lesson: never underestimate nature.


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