To Build a Fire

Realism: Compare and Contrast

In each of the two short stories, "To Build a Fire," by Jack London, and "A Mystery of Heroism," by Stephen Crane, the author portrays life's realism through the thoughts, actions, and descriptions of a central character. Both characters undergo harsh and dangerous, yet realistic circumstances while attempting to accomplish a particular goal. The authors ridicule Romantic tenets, unveil arrogance and ignorance, expose naturalism, and utilize impressionistic writing to manifest their central theme of realism.

London and Crane both scoff at Romantic notions in order amplify realism. For example, London undercuts every Romantic event his character experiences with reality: "There was the fire, snapping and crackling and promising life with every dancing flame...grew like an avalanche, and it descended without warning upon the man and the fire, and the fire was blotted out!" (502-503). London builds the reader up to this false sense of Romantic optimism in order to augment and dramatize the fall back to reality. Furthermore, London obliterates any notion of hope the reader may hold for the character, and, in effect, this unveils the harsh reality of the character's situation. Furthermore, the...

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