Interpretation "To Build a Fire" In the story 'To Build a Fire' by Jack London, a man is travelling through the klondike in Alaska to find his friends, 'the boys'. Because the man is only quick and alert to the things of life and not the significance, he finds himself in some very bad circumstances. The man experiences several instances of bad luck such as getting wet up to his knees, the spruce tree dumping snow on his fire, and matches falling through his numb fingers and going out in the snow. I think that the central idea of 'To Build a Fire' is to listen to your instincts and the "significances of life", because they will help you when you find yourself in troublesome circumstances. The man in this story is so focussed on reaching 'the boys' that he overlooks numerous consequences because he is focussed on the individual actions.
The man did not respect mother nature's power, in his arrogance he didn't listen to the 'significances of life' nor his instincts so he ended up paying for it with his life. The man 'was without imagination' and only understood the facts. He was a newcomer without much experience and thought that he could conquer mother nature. In fact, he thought that any real man could overcome the odds. To him everything was just facts. For example, the temperature was seventy five below zero, which didn't mean anything to him except a number.
He did not think of his 'frailty as a creature of temperature. ' He laughed at the 'old-timer at Sulphur Creek' when he warned him not to travel alone when it was so cold. The old man was experienced in life he was very wise, but the newcomer just called him 'womanish'. Even at the end of the story when the man knew he was going to die, he still was thinking that 'freezing was not so bad as people thought' and 'when he got back to the states he could tell folks what real cold was. ' This shows that the man wasn't taking his situation very seriously. He wanted to die with dignity instead of thinking of family or people who cared about him, he foolishly thought about how stupid he looked 'running like a chicken with it's head off.
' He was stupid and responsible for his own death because he did not listen to his instincts and the 'significances of life'. The man received many clues throughout the story which told him that it was not safe to be out alone. He knew that it was colder than fifty below zero when he tried to spit the juice from his chewing tobacco and it wasn't unable to clear his chin before it froze. 'The result was that a crystal beard of the color and solidity of amber was increasing it's length on his chin. ' Several times he comments that the cold was making his hands and feet numbed, and frostbite was killing his cheeks. He thinks, 'What were frosted cheeks?
A bit painful, that was all... ' The man also lost circulation in his hands when he took off his gloves. He rubbed his face and beat his hands, but this only temporarily brought back the circulation. His fingers 'seemed remote from his body' because he could not move them.
Earlier, he ignored an initial sign from nature with a submerged spring because he wanted to get to "the boys" by six. Not long after he stepped through the ice into knee deep freezing water. The most obvious clues that the man took in were internal. 'He wondered whether his toes were warm or numb. ' When he tried to light his last fire, his flesh burned. He knew it was burning because 'he could smell it'.
He didn't even feel his hands burning. The man thought that it was 'curious that one should have to use his eyes to find where his hands were. ' Eventually, no amount of running or thrashing could have awaken feeling in his body. He chose to ignore his instincts and internal signs that would have saved him, so he died. One of his biggest mistakes was how he kept taking off his gloves every time he needed to do something.
Every time he took his gloves off, he exposed his hands to the extreme cold, which lowered his body temperature and brought him closer to freezing. If he had just left his gloves on he would have stayed warmer and might have been able to make it to the camp and to 'the boys'. 'But the temperature did not matter' he said many times throughout the story. He was used to the cold and thought that any real man could make it thorough to the camp.
The dog, on the other hand, was an Alaskan husky with pure instinct. It remained warm by using it's fur coat, knowing that it can burrow in the snow for warmth; it has an inherited understanding of the cold and all the dangers that came with that. The dog could not communicate the location of the camp on a map, but it knew by scent where to find the nearby camp with men and fire. This story shows that in the Klondike instinct is way better that intellect. The dog is much wiser than the man in many ways. When the man wants to kill him and bury his hands in his carcass to warm them the dog knows.
Without thinking, the dog knows the cold is dangerous and that the spring is risky. He also knows that 'to permit the ice to remain would mean sore feet. ' The dog doesn't know why, but it just obeys 'the mysterious prompting that arose from the deep crypts of its being. ' While the dog may not have the intellectual capacity to create fire or food for itself, it instinctively knows where to go to find 'the other food providers and fire providers'. The dog shows extreme loyalty to the man and only when he 'caught the scent of death' did he leave the man. Because the man does not pay attention to the 'significances of life' and doesn't respect the power of the cold and mother nature he does not survive.
The dog was able to survive because he listened and followed its instincts. Since the man didn't listen to the advice of experienced people, he was ignorant and never expected to be defeated by the cold. If the man had prepared himself for the worst, his death would not have been inevitable.