To Build a Fire

A War Against Nature: Instinct in "To Build a Fire" 12th Grade

“But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” This quote by Rachael Carson evokes the internal struggle of man in his yearning to survive against the incessant onslaught of nature. “To Build a Fire” by Jack London expresses an existential crisis through the concept of Naturalism. To convey to readers that when man is at nature’s mercy, animalistic instinct is victorious over scientific technology, London juxtaposes the two types of knowledge and their evolution throughout the below-freezing hike endured by a man and his dog through the Yukon Trail by using setting, characterization, and imagery.

To begin, the setting in the story is vital to the significance of the work because it is an unrelenting and static antagonist. The details of imagery regarding setting in the story evince that the man and the dog are submissive to nature, and thus the characters must revert to their known means of survival. In the exposition, the author introduces the setting by describing the man, who “…turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little traveled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland” (London, 1). London expresses the extremity...

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