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In jack londons short story to build a fire. The protagonist. An unnamed man man is travelling in winter along the frozen yukon river.
The land is covered in and snow and the man follows a dark line of a trail. His character is described as without imagination and hes unmoved and unconcerned with the beautiful and extremely dangerous environments around him the man stubbornly cannot envision the danger of winter in the yukon. He sees nature is something to overcome the dog.
A native husky traveling with the man is not just a companion. But a necessary tool. This dog is another main character the dog thinks simple thoughts and has a greater instinctive understanding of his situation and his surroundings than his human companion.
Hes troubled by the extremity of the cold and longs for a fire or shelter. His attitude toward the man is skittish and untrusting. He follows him out of fear.
And the need for survival rather than loyalty. Its worth noting that the dog is also a key symbol in the story and represents animal instinct and acts as a bridge between humans and the natural world. The dog is clearly still a part of the natural world as it retains its instincts and understands how to survive the cold weather without human tools.
However the dog also longs for the human tool of fire and stays close to the man. Even though it has no attachment to him in this way. The dog remains both a part of the wild landscape and the human one though it chooses to stay near the humans.
Its become accustomed to looking to them for food and warmth. It also understands survival in the wild as such the man displays no compassion for the dog and treats. It harshly.
His personality is cold and calculating and full of pride in hubris. As they walk the man watches carefully for traps. And springs beneath the snow.
Where warm springs bubble up and melt areas under the ice. At one point. He makes the dog go ahead of him to check the ground and the dog breaks through the ice when they stop to eat lunch the and seems amused by the ice caking on his face and by his numbed fingers.
After a few moments. He cant feel tingling in his toes. And wonders whether the toes were warm or numb.
He feels his first spark of fear and manages to make a fire to get warm and eat his lunch. Which also temporarily alleviates the dogs fear as well after theyve been walking again. The man now unexpectedly breaks through a spot in the snow.
Where a spring was lurking and is soaked up to his knees. He finds a stash of firewood and kindling and quickly begins working to start a fire and indeed fire is one of the titular symbols and a key motif of the story. Which frequently alludes to fire as a symbol of survival of human technology in harmony with nature and of life itself to the man fire is initially something to look forward to which represents a break in his journey for lunch or the comforting end of his journey.
When he can arrive at camp. The full importance of fire for survival doesnt become clear to the man until hes beyond the ability to create it on the other hand the dog immediately yearns for fire. Recognizing its ability to keep them safe from the cold and help them survive the deadly temperatures instinctively the dog had learned fire and it wanted fire as illustrated by the dogs thought process fire is not a regular part of the natural world.
But is something humans create it will in this way the ability to create fire is an important symbol of survival tools for human beings. But one that benefits animals as well the man no longer generating any warmth from walking begins to slow down. And he loses feeling in his hands and his feet then it is face and skin.
But the fire begins to burn the man remembers. The advice given to him by the old timer on sulphur creek. Not to venture into the klondike alone when the temperature reached below 50 degrees.
This third character the old timer of sulphur creek. Never actually appears in the story. But the man remembers his advice about the dangers of traveling alone when the temperature drops really low.
The wise old timer acts as a mental companion. Who the man both agrees mann disagrees with even though. He should be listening to and.
While the man struggles to survive. Snippets of their conversation. Appear vividly both times.
The man builds a fire the smug man smiles up the old timers. Advice and thinks any man who was a man could travel alone. However just as hes about to cut off his moccasins and warm his frozen feet by the growing fire.
The tree he built his fire under dumps a load of snow and snuffs it out painfully aware that hes now in serious danger. The man works quickly to build a new fire he tries to keep calm. But his hands are so frozen in clumsy.
He cant even feel the piece of bark in his pocket. He uses for kindling he manages to beat feeling back into his hands and retrieve the bark but drops his matches in the snow he manages to light all of the matches at once and hold them to the birch bark but in the process. He severely burns his badly numbed hands.
He awkwardly tries to feed the fire with his frozen hands and accidentally drops a clump of moss on the twigs that scatters them putting out the flame while the man struggles in vain to start a fire. The dog watches. The man gets a wild idea to kill the dog and use its body to warm his hands.
But when he calls the dog theres a suspicious note of fear in his voice that frightens the dog and it refuses to come any closer the man crawls after the dog and manages to grab its betty has no way to kill the animal with his frozen helpless hands. So he lets it go the man begins to panic and runs around wildly in an attempt to thaw his feet and warm his body. He tries to run the rest of the way to the camp where his companions are waiting for him.
But he lacks the endurance eventually the man stumbles and stops to rest. But then panics and begins to run again. The dog stays with him through all of this.
Seeing the dog warm and in no immediate danger of dying and rages. The man and he yells at the dog he begins to imagine his companions at camp coming to find his frozen body. He sees a vision of the old timer on sulphur creek.
And mumbles you were right old hoss you were right at this point. Readers will note that jack london uses the old timer on sulphur creek as a symbol of the side of humanity. That has kept touch with nature and instinct.
The old timer symbolizes temperance wisdom and knowledge. The advice he offers has the power to save the mans life. If only the protagonist would have listened to it the old timers.
Advice at least manages to repeatedly save the man from breaking through the ice that helps him understand what he needs to do in certain situations. But the greater piece of advice to abstain from travel is ignored the mans visions of the old timer here at the storys end indicates. The mans final understanding of the knowledge and wisdom the old timer embodied.
But this realization comes upon him too late the man drifts off into the most comfortable satisfying sleep. Hes ever known the dog sits by the man and waits for him to rise. But he lies still finally the dog smells death on him and leaves the body heading to the camp to find food and warmth as he introduces the protagonist.
The narrator informs. The reader of the flaws that will become the mans downfall. He lacks imagination and this makes him unable to envision the dangers that could befall him in a situation of such extreme cold alone in the remote wilderness.
As a newcomer to the land. His lack of concern about its dangers sets a tone of warning and recklessness. The narration itself adds to the ominous tone as the story progresses illustrating the mans awareness of the motif of cold with brief aside such as it certainly was cold this repetition not only helps develop the creeping sense of danger.
But also makes the intense cold much more visceral for the reader. The description of the effects of this bitter. Chill repeatedly and in a tone of vague surprise helps it creep into the readers consciousness in tangible.
Disturbing ways as part of the literary naturalist movement. The themes of instinct pride and man versus nature are central to many of jack. Londons writings in to build a fire these themes take on more specific forms illustrating for the reader.
The perils of the relationships among humans animals and nature instinct is a theme that goes hand in hand with the literary naturalist movement. Which strives to examine humans without preconceived moral purim scrutinizing them as both human animals and flawed beings in to build a fire. The protagonist is far removed from his survival instincts because neither he nor.
His recent ancestors have had any need for them. And his instincts are replaced by knowledge or what he thinks he knows and pride these tools help him navigate the extreme cold and wilderness of the yukon for a short while on his own in the end. However they are not enough to save him from natures ambivalence.
The dog on the other hand is an animal of pure instinct. Making decisions that allow his survival in a harsh and extreme environment. The dogs instincts also inform him to stay with the man because he recognizes the importance of a partner and fellow pack member in order to survive.
The prideful man lacks this partnership instinct. The theme of pride underscores the mans actions. And his downfall pivots around his arrogance and overconfidence.
Hes clearly received good advice from a local older man who knows the region and its dangers. Yet he derisive ly refers to the old timer as womanish. Because he believes the old timers.
Advice somehow does not apply to him the protagonist sees himself for the most part as being above this advice and the dangers of the environment. Not until it is too late does he begin to see value and truth and the old timers wisdom whose lesson about the dangers of human pride cost the man his very life man versus nature is a powerful theme to london. Uses the two characters of the man and the dog juxtaposed with an extreme version of the natural world to highlight the conflicts and overlaps between instinct and reasoning.
Which london refers to as judgement in the story. The man represents the far end of one extreme. He has no name and is a symbol of a certain aspect of humanity.
Thats completely lost its connection with nature and its own inner instincts. The mans disconnection with his natural instincts affect his ability to make sound judgments about the perilous situation. Hes in however because hes capable of reasoning.
The man feels more powerful than nature itself. The dog is mostly of the natural world. But also acts as a bridge between man and nature.
Just as the man is representative of a particular contingent of the human race. The natural setting in the story embodies the extreme side of nature. Harsh deadly and unforgiving in every way.
London. Pits these two sides against one another and humanity quickly folds under the power of the natural world londons writings. Give reverence to natures ability to wipe out humanity and to humans place in the natural world as being little different from that of any other animal in the end.
Neither nature nor. The dog care about whether the man lives or dies. And the mans overconfidence in his own power leads to his demise you .
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