The Existential Theme in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”

“In Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” the setting plays a major role in how the story is told. London uses precise methods to show the us the readers the tone and depth of the story. London starts the story off with describing the setting to us in fine detail.

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He prepares us for a dark depressed and fear-invoking experience. The main character starts off in a isolated environment of frigid weather and completely unaware of his surroundings. He was a newcomer to the land, he only known the world he created for himself. None of us ever been exposed to such degrees of chilling weather. So he really didn’t know what to expect especially from the unforeknown tundra that awaited him.

London’s vivid imagination of the mans adventure was the determining factor of the mans survival paints an amazing picture. No matter where the man and dog went there was almost a immediate danger lurking around the corner. Which created a expectation for a disaster for every action the man made. Sir Jack London expressed the use of death and dying to show us the man’s lack of warmth and terrible luck long his trip back home to his boys. He uses the word dying to show the mans decreasing ability to stay warm in dangerous climate of Alaska. The man’s problem slowly gets worse one level at time till he finally dies in tundra. He makes sure we can picture the gloominess by repeating “ the day had broken cold and grey, supremely cold and grey”. London says theses line over and over to stress the impact on the setting to the man and his dog.

The neutral colors of his surroundings causes the man and dog to constantly fight depression. Do to the lack of imagination he only had his practical knowledge on this new area. His ignorance puts him at a disadvantage to adjust to frigid weather and constant stress that surrounds him. The man really never wanted to deal with the reality of things especially if it was unpleasant. But the extreme cold and the sunless sky had no effect on him. While he continued his journey down the trail. He was able to withstand the heinous temperature and climate, but he could face his biggest challenge within him. Which was ultimately what would he do if the inevitable was to happen.. The man couldn’t handle coming complete understanding that his relaxed attitude to everything could be his possible downfall. His fear made him more selfish focused on only the actions and thoughts that are pleasurable to him.

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