Current Discussion on Jack London’s To Build a Fire

To build a fire by Jack London is a story that relates to many current issues in today’s world. The way people live today without caring to take any advice offered by people who have experienced similar situations before is well elaborated in the story. People tend to take things for the granted event after enough warnings. People today, like the man in the story are self-assured and have not spaced to factor in uncertainties. For instance, the man travels alone in temperatures that are negative fifty degrees despite having been warned not to travel alone. The story relates to the challenges that people face in society today due to being ignorant and taking things too lightly. The story does well in showing the things that people do in pursuit of personal greatness given that the man froze while travelling to the gold mine where he was guaranteed a better livelihood. The old man who warned him against going to the gold mine, according to the man was old fashioned, he did not risk enough (London). The younger man was feeling elated about travelling to the goldmine on his own without looking out for the signs of danger until it was way too late and he died. His dog was faithful but sceptical when the man died, the dog had to find a new master in Yukon, the gold mine.

The character of the man in the story relates to many people in the world today. He is stubborn, willing to take risks and to some extent, ignorant and proud. The man does what people today would consider travelling the road less trodden. This means that more young people are willing to risk it all if only they can get themselves to advance their social and economic status. It is possible that the man travelling to Yukon only went with his dog because nobody else in his circle was willing to take the risk with him. It is important to also look at the fact that the man was able to go farther alone than he would, had he been in a group of people (Monroe). Most people would have given up the moment the ice broke and his feet sank into the ice. He was stubborn and willing to follow his dreams to fruition, which is also rare in the world today. The character of the man can serve as an inspiration to the world today whereby people do not have the zeal to pursue their interests when it seems dangerous too. 

The man’s character also comes out as being proud. He does not take the advice of the old man seriously. The fact that he even thinks that the man was being unreasonable is enough to show that he thought he knew too much. He was also able to create an avenue whereby, people can relate to instances where they were advice, ignored and lived to regret their failure to take heed. It is important that people take their time to ensure that whenever they are warned about something as dire as the man was warned about the low temperatures, they take heed and stay safe. For instance, it is not surprising that the man realized that he was going to die and that he should have taken the advice of the old man early enough to not travel alone (Reesman). He may have saved his own life by offering to pay someone to accompany him all the way to Yukon. Additionally, walking on ice on a lake is risky enough. He may have also waited for the snowing to stop so that he travels amid other dangers other than freezing to death.

 The old man represents the people in the society who have survived through seasons, challenges and made it out alive. They have seen people perishing as they chase their dreams and know that it is the result of their carelessness. The old man knew that the journey to Yukon was risky because of the road that led to the mines. He had also most likely seen many people travel the road and never make it to the mine, unless, they went in a group. The story is closely related to the phase, “If you want to go fast, go alone if you want to go far go with a group.” Clearly, the man would have survived if he had been in a group of people. When his fingers froze, someone else would have put up a fire and helped him get warm (Mitchell). Therefore, the old man in today’s world is represented by the parents, the employers and mentors. It is important to ensure that people do understand the fact that taking advice is not wrong and is not a sign of weakness.

The character of the dog can be sad to be faithful and represents the friends and supporters that people have in their lives today. Though rare, such people exist. However, looking at the perspective of the dog from a different angle, the dog did not have the imagination that its howling may have called for help from Yukon. The dog was only able to save itself after the death of his master (Berliner). The dog also represents the people who will clearly see danger ahead in the plans their friends make and also feel that it is not a good idea but instead of falling out of the plan, they go along. They feel that maybe it will be successful and they will benefit, but the moment things go wrong, they are the first to bolt and run to safer grounds. In today’s world, people are afraid to take risks on their own, therefore, they feel that they can ride the tide with those who are willing to take the risk freely. 

The character of the dog also represents the people who would not think twice about living in the moment and going the situation suits them. The dog was ready to run all the way to Yukon when its master died. This is a different perspective from those would be willing to stick to their friends and business partners when things got rough. It is critical that people in the world today are willing to freeload on the efforts of other people. The man in the story represents the people who follow through with their decisions despite the challenges that they face along the way. For instance, ordinarily, the man should have stayed longer when the first fire lit and maybe he would have stayed warmer for longer. The moment he fell into the ice, he could have easily given up and let himself die but, he tried to light another fire. When he finally got burnt, he knew all help was lost. All this time, the dog, the friends and business associates, will always watch helplessly until it is too late. At this point, they realise that they can get help elsewhere and leave.

The title of the story, “to build a fire,” relates to the challenges that the man faces. He tries to get a head start in his life but he has to overcome the challenge of travelling alone in a snow-ridden road, light fires on his own and avoid falling into the snow (Roddewig). When relating to the world today, the man’s efforts of getting myself a better job and source of livelihood can be equated to the challenge immigrants have to face when crossing oceans in a bid to move to other countries to get better jobs. The challenges of the oceans and the challenge of the snow can relate. Therefore, the effort that the man put into surviving the challenges of the snow, can be equated to the process of building a fire. He needed to take his time to ensure that he got good firewood, have dry matchsticks and build his fire where it would not be put out by the win before it lit. The man was expected to be cautious with his body so that he did not burn himself in a moment of desperation. He failed to take all the necessary precautions and he burnt himself. 

 The fire is a good servant but a bad master. This saying is relevant to the story of the man travelling through the snow-ridden road with only his dog as his companion. His ambition blinded him to the legitimate danger that he exposed both him and his dog to. He only thought of how he would be received by his friends when he eventually got to Yukon. He did not seem well prepared because even the food he brought was not enough to last him more than a day. He lacked proper planning which sometimes leads the supporters, represented by the dog to run away and seek greener pastures.

To conclude, it is important that one reads the story with an open mind. This way, it is easy for the reader to relate the journey of the man to real life situations like the migration of the immigrants who risk falling into the ocean and dying in pursuit of a better life. The story presents a situation that is versatile and can easily relate to the daily lives of people in the world today. Building a fire can easily relate to the process of building a brand, a business, a family and basically giving meaning to life. It takes effort, risks and making mistakes to ensure that when one finally succeeds, they can enjoy their efforts. It is important to also note the importance of having mentors and being ready to admit defeat when it is inevitable. Being proud stands in the way of many people and their success. For instance, had the man aid attention to the warning of the older man, he would not have died alone in the snow. People tend to ignore direction and guidance and often, they fail. Once in a while, they succeed.

Works Cited

Berliner, Jonathan. “Jack London’s Socialistic Social Darwinism.” American Literary Realism (2008): 52-78. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27747307.

London, Jack. To build a fire. 1906. Online.

Mitchell, Lee Clark. “Keeping his head: Repetition and Responsibility in London’s To Build a Fire.” Journal of Modern Literature (1986): 76-96. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3831433.

Monroe, Harry. “To Build Fre by Jack London.” 5 January 2018. American Stories. Online. 5 May 2019.

Reesman, Jeanne Campbell. “Never Travel alone: Naturalism.” American Literary Realism (1997): 33-49. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27746687.

Roddewig, Stephen. “To build the fire of revolution.” James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal (2017): 50-55. http://commons.lib.jmu.edu/jmurj/vol4/iss1/4.

Works Cited

Berliner, Jonathan. “Jack London’s Socialistic Social Darwinism.” American Literary Realism (2008): 52-78. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27747307.

London, Jack. To build a fire. 1906. Online.

Mitchell, Lee Clark. “Keeping his head: Repetition and Responsibility in London’s To Build a Fire.” Journal of Modern Literature (1986): 76-96. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3831433.

Monroe, Harry. “To Build Fre by Jack London.” 5 January 2018. American Stories. Online. 5 May 2019.

Reesman, Jeanne Campbell. “Never Travel alone: Naturalism.” American Literary Realism (1997): 33-49. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27746687.

Roddewig, Stephen. “To build the fire of revolution.” James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal (2017): 50-55. http://commons.lib.jmu.edu/jmurj/vol4/iss1/4.

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