Indifferent Nature Theme in “To Build a Fire”

The short story “To Build a Fire” is about a newcomer man who attempts to do a nine hour walk across the Yukon wilderness in brutally cold weather of temperatures dropping to 75 degrees below zero to meet his friends at a mining camp on Henderson Creek. Unfortunately, the man did not know the tragic journey he was in for. Despite the freezing cold, the man is not worried or concerned of the fatal events that could happen.

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The first mistake out of many the man makes is how he lacks the imagination to realize how unforgiving nature can be when it is not respected.

The man knows how cold the weather is but he ignores it and thinks nothing of the serious signs of his face and fingers being numb until later in the story. Besides the lack of respect the man has for nature he as well makes yet another mistake by failing to not pay attention to the behavior of the only company he has, a dog. The dog has a frightened instinct about the cold and can sense that the ruthless weather is going lead to something awful. The behavior that the dog was showing should have helped shown the man what danger he was in with this weather but the man ignores it and instead underestimates these deadly situations he will soon be facing. Ignoring the instincts of a wild animal is a foolish thing to do as animals are always in a fight to survive in the wild and they are constantly relying on their instincts to help keep them alive.

The most serious mistake the man could have made out of everything was letting his pride get in the way of not listening to the old timer at Sulfur Creek who told him not to travel alone in such severe cold weather. If the man were to have traveled with a companion he would have gotten the extra help that he needed. The companion could have possibly noticed the fragile area of ice and could have prevented the man from falling in the water, which lead the man to be wet to his waist, and the companion could have compensated for the man’s lack of common sense for him to not light a fire underneath a snowy branch. Out of all the mistakes the man had made the worst was him being overly confident in thinking he could do this trip all alone without any help and ignoring all the warning signs that was given to him was the biggest mistake he could have made as it ultimately led him to his death and making nature win in the end.

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