“To Build a Fire” by Jack London
Just like many writers Jack London writes about his own similar travels and adventures. “To Build a Fire” was based on London’s own trek across the Alaskan Tundra during the Klondike gold rush (website). The protagonist character, followed by his dog, struggle to outmaneuver his enemies: the brutal cold and the harsh terrain of the Yukon with out success. His lack of respect for nature, youthful pride, and lack of supplies hinder his ability to survive.
As the man enters into the Yukon his arrogance and unpreparedness does not let him fully appreciate the extreme cold and snow covered terrain. He begins on a “dim little - traveled trail that led eastward through the fat spruce timberland” (London 114). He describes the Yukon as “a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. Atop of this ice was many feet of snow” (London 115). He also encounters steep banks, deep snow and hidden pools of water underneath springs as he crosses them during a time of year with very little sunlight. The water under the springs, hidden, lay in wait as an enemy would during an attack. As a “newcomer to the land during his first winter” he is naïve in his way of thinking (London 115); the old timer’s advice of traveling with someone and avoiding travel when the temperatures are so unbearable fell upon deaf ears (London 119).
As he travels he realizes more and more how dangerous the temperatures really are. At first, he underestimates how cold it truly is:
The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold. It knew that it was no time for traveling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment. In reality, it was not merely colder than fifty below; it was colder than sixty below, than seventy below. It was seventy – five below zero. (London 116)
His misjudgment of the severity of the cold is his biggest mistake. As he tries to win the battle against the cold with fire, he finally fails....