To Build a Fire

What specific words contribute to London's cold, unemotional tone? How would you characterize his phrasing and word order?

In the book to "Build a fire"

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Naturalistic subject matter and language

Naturalist fiction writers devised new techniques and subject matters to convey their ideas. Generally, they focused more on narrative rather than character. "To Build a Fire" has a nearly nonstop narrative drive, and we only occasionally enter into the mind of the man--who does not even have a name in the story, indicating how little London is concerned with him as a unique person. Naturalists often used sparer, harder language to complement their plot-driven stories; this tendency can be seen as a verbal corollary to naturalism's preoccupation with objectivity (see The objective power of numbers and facts, above). Finally, naturalism usually turned its attention to the often-ignored lower classes. The man in the story is a lower- to middle-class drifter trying to strike it rich; no one with any wealth would risk his life in such brutal conditions.


The objective power of numbers and facts

Naturalism maintains that the world can be understood only through scientific, objective knowledge. In "To Build a Fire," the reader receives a number of these hard facts. For instance, temperatures lower than negative fifty degrees Fahrenheit demarcate the danger zone of traveling alone. London tells us the exact amount of matches the man lights at once (seventy). Moreover, the man is preoccupied with the distance to the camp and the time he will reach it. These hard facts should arm the man with enough information to assess competently the deterministic environment (see Determinism, above), but he fails to do so before he is in mortal danger.


I dunno.

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