Teacher Guide

To Build a Fire Lesson Plan

Introduction to To Build a Fire

Published in 1908, "To Build a Fire" is a short story heavily influenced by its author's experience and by the literary movement called Naturalism. Naturalism was an offshoot of Charles Darwin's and Herbert Spencer's theories on evolution. In his monumental 1859 work The Origin of Species, Darwin theorized that environments alter the biology and behavior of organisms; the organisms whose traits promote survival reproduce more successfully and adapt new, more efficient traits. Spencer applied Darwin's ideas to the human experience, making Social Darwinism an influential philosophy of the late 19th century.

Naturalists saw evolution as proof that the world is deterministic and that...

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