To Build a Fire

How does this story reflect key naturalist beliefs? How do you feel about this philosophy’s view of human beings?


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ack London specialized in stories about the wilderness. His running theme involved the raw majesty and power of the elements. Naturalism was London's mantra and this story is a perfect example of this. In "To Build a Fire" the setting is in the Yukon. It is cold, merciless and wild. The man, who does not even have a name, is secondary to the setting. The man has a sense of cockiness to him. He thinks he knows better than his very apprehensive husky and the old timer's advice. The setting gives many clues to the man. The setting is almost a character that way. It warns him not to go ahead but he does. When the man does not heed nature's warnings, the penalties are harsh. The dog and the elements are in sync with nature’s rhythms; the man is not. London's familiar theme of respect for this setting is hammered home when the man freezes to death alone in the snow. I appreciate the fact that,even today, man is essentially at the mercy of nature.