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To Build A Fire

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To Build A Fire
By: Jack London
Presentation By:
Oscar Lara
Kim Phan
Jack London
John (Jack) Griffith London(1876-1916)
was born in San Francisco of an
unmarried mother, Flora Wellman. As an
adolescent he worked at hard labor
jobs, pirated for oysters, served as a fish
patrol, and joined the army. In the winter
of 1987, Jack London traveled in the
Yukon; his adventures were the
ideologies behind many of his stories.
London often tied the proposal of Social
Darwinism into his writings. Jack London
was an influential naturalistic writer of
his time and became the first to use his
endorsement for commercial products in
advertising.
Theme
Jack London’s To Build A Fire symbolizes an onion; the external
theme he illustrates is the Man’s struggle to meet up with his
friends . Once you peel the outer layers off, you realize that
he intertwines the deeper meaning of ignorance, survival, and
knowledge. The Man’s instincts and senses allow him to
understand that the weather is a definite drawback, but
ignorance and stubbornness triumphs. He goes into this
adventure without knowledge of the dangers that can occurhe did not realize what he was getting himself into. His
eagerness traps him into a ball of risks and threatens his life.
After sometime he becomes dependent on survival; he
realizes that his life is valuable and the only way out of death
is by building a fire for warmth. When your life is on the line
your companion and desires are no longer vital.
Tone and Attitude
In To Build A Fire, Jack London displays an indifferent,
yet melancholy tone. The speaker operates as a
third person and an outside observer; he tells the
story as it is and encompasses no concerns for the
Man. But at the same time he portrays a gloomy
tone when referring to the dog and dangers that
jeopardizes the Man’s survival; the speaker
suddenly feels empathy for the main character.
Although the main character experiences many
difficulties the author avoids an emotional attitude,
towards the main character, and creates an
informative short story.
Purpose
In To Build A Fire, Jack London’s purpose was write
and inform the reader about his experiences in the
Yukon. He wants to highlight the dangers of traveling
and that ignorance is not an exception; you should
understand what you are about to face. Your
existence is essential, and the struggle to survive is
difficult; by emphasizing survival he weaves Darwin’s
theory into his writing.
“Social Darwinism, term coined in the late 19th century to describe the idea that
humans, like animals and plants, compete in a struggle for existence in which
natural selection results in “survival of the fittest.”” “[But most propose
arguments that justify] imbalances of power between individuals, races, and
nations because they consider some people more fit to survive than others. “
Audience and Occasion
• The may have been aimed to people moving
west, that are trying to take over nature for
economic gains
• The ignorance of these people to think that
they can go out and destroy nature with no
setbacks
“He pictured the boys finding his body the next
day…He did not belong with himself anymore,
for even then he was out of himself…”
Evidence and Data
• “He remembered the advice of the old-timer on Sulphur Creek, and
smiled. The old-timer had been very serious in laying down the law
that no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below. Well,
here he was; he had had the accident; he was alone; and he had
saved himself.”
This quote shows how ignorant the man was to believe that he could
beat nature. Yes, he had survived a long time but how he didn’t
realize that he still had a long way to go and his plans could be
ruined due to the weather. The man’s persistence against nature
shows how his will and self determination drives him to put up a
fight against the external conflict in the story.
• “Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that
was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature
of temperature, and upon man's frailty in general, able only to live
within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did
not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man's place
in the universe “
It shows the greatness of the human mind to block off anything when a
ultimate goal is desired. In this case, the man wants to get to the
camp and does not pay much attention to the weather and talks
himself into believing that it’s not too cold.
Appeals
• Logos: The man should have thought about the extremity of the
weather and how it would be safer to travel with a partner. The harsh
conditions could seriously affect his health.
“Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite of frost that hurt..”
• Ethos: The character should have taken the advice from the elder
from Sulphur Creek. He knew more about the weather and has more
wisdom than the man. The elder knew how stubborn he was to travel
and even suggests him to take a partner, which the man turns down.
“He remembered the advice from the old-timer… had been very serious
in laying down the law that no man must travel alone..”
• Pathos: The man has strong emotional strings to crossing Klondike
to get to the camp with the other boys. That’s what keeps him to keep
trying to survive even when he loses control of his hands.
Assumptions
The author may assume…
• Nature dominates over man
• Man can be too stubborn and soon cause their own
dismay
• It is best to go for what is safe than to follow undergo
such an extreme expedition
“…It was for its own sake that it yearned
back toward the fire.”
Style
Omniscient narrator sets up for the reader to not know much about the
character, which causes the reader to only see him as stubborn and
ignorant
Sensory details: “..tremendous cold..”, “..frozen moisture..”, set up the
scene to which the character must face his death
Syntax: Long paragraphs and sentences that deeply depict the man’s
attitude and feelings, as well as the scenery
“Empty as the man's mind was of thoughts, we was keenly
observant…"
Works Cited
• Mood, Fulmer. "Skeletons in Closet Rattle a Trio." 15
Mar 2007
<http://www.sfmuseum.net/photos10/jlondon.gif>.
• Stasz, Clarice. "Jack [John Griffith] London." Jack
London: Biography. 15 Mar 2007
<http://london.sonoma.edu/jackbio.html>.
• "To Build A Fire."Prentice Hall Literature. California
Edition. 2002.
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