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Naturalism in Jack London's To Build a Fire Essay

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Naturalism in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”
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When Jack London wrote “To Build a Fire” he embraced the idea of naturalism because it mirrored the events of daily life. Naturalism showed how humans had to be wary at every corner because at anytime death could be there, waiting for them to make a mistake and forfeit their lives. He used naturalism, the most realistic literary movement, to show how violent and uncaring nature really is and how no matter what you do nature will always be there. London also presented the basic idea of Darwinism and the survival of the fittest, basically if you are dumb you will die. Collectively, London used naturalism to show how in life, humans can depend on nothing

…show more content…

When the man was trying desperately to re-light the fire he removed his gloves and lost all feeling in his hands. If he had remained calm and thought about his situation he might have had a chance to survive. Nature showed no mercy when the man attempted to re-light the fire using only his palms, and he failed. “He was losing his battle with the frost. It was creeping into his body from all sides.”(1754) The man’s unfortunate mistakes cost him his life and nature felt no sympathy for him. He was just another man who failed to defeat nature for one more day. If the man had brought along a companion for the journey like the old man in the town had suggested he would still be alive. However, his stubbornness would not submit to that. “The old-timer on Sulfur Creek was right, he thought in the moment of controlled despair that ensued: after fifty below, a man should travel with a partner.”(1752). Instead the man brought a wolf dog with him to keep him company. The only thing that the dog was good for was as an outlet for the man’s jealously when he realized all the mistakes he had made. The man envied how the dog could just sit in the snow and his warm fur would protect him from the elements. The mistakes that the man made reflect everyday life by showing how just one accident or miscalculation can cost you your life. Naturalism utilized the environment to show how fierce and apathetic the world can be. In the opening scene of “To Build a Fire” London used a bleak

Show More

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Naturalism in Jack London's To Build a Fire Essay

1276 Words
6 Pages

Naturalism in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”
This essay has problems with format

When Jack London wrote “To Build a Fire” he embraced the idea of naturalism because it mirrored the events of daily life. Naturalism showed how humans had to be wary at every corner because at anytime death could be there, waiting for them to make a mistake and forfeit their lives. He used naturalism, the most realistic literary movement, to show how violent and uncaring nature really is and how no matter what you do nature will always be there. London also presented the basic idea of Darwinism and the survival of the fittest, basically if you are dumb you will die. Collectively, London used naturalism to show how in life, humans can depend on nothing

…show more content…

When the man was trying desperately to re-light the fire he removed his gloves and lost all feeling in his hands. If he had remained calm and thought about his situation he might have had a chance to survive. Nature showed no mercy when the man attempted to re-light the fire using only his palms, and he failed. “He was losing his battle with the frost. It was creeping into his body from all sides.”(1754) The man’s unfortunate mistakes cost him his life and nature felt no sympathy for him. He was just another man who failed to defeat nature for one more day. If the man had brought along a companion for the journey like the old man in the town had suggested he would still be alive. However, his stubbornness would not submit to that. “The old-timer on Sulfur Creek was right, he thought in the moment of controlled despair that ensued: after fifty below, a man should travel with a partner.”(1752). Instead the man brought a wolf dog with him to keep him company. The only thing that the dog was good for was as an outlet for the man’s jealously when he realized all the mistakes he had made. The man envied how the dog could just sit in the snow and his warm fur would protect him from the elements. The mistakes that the man made reflect everyday life by showing how just one accident or miscalculation can cost you your life. Naturalism utilized the environment to show how fierce and apathetic the world can be. In the opening scene of “To Build a Fire” London used a bleak

Show More

Related
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    1460 Words | 6 Pages

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    though was one who portrayed himself through dozens of short stories. His name is Jack London. Jack London is a writer who shows the conflict between Nature versus Man in his writings and supports this theme through his work, “To Build a Fire.” Jack was born on January 12, 1876 and died on November 22, 1916. He is best known for his nature novels depicting how nature can sometimes be so powerful that it overcomes man. Jack was deserted by his father when he was eleven and was mainly raised by his mother…

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    Show More

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    2550 Words | 11 Pages

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    Show More

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    605 Words | 3 Pages

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    Show More

  • Jack London's To Build a Fire Essay example

    1103 Words | 5 Pages

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    880 Words | 4 Pages

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    Show More

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    992 Words | 4 Pages

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    Nature is always pushing man to his limits. When man heeds the warning signs that nature has to offer and those warnings of other men, he is most likely to conquer nature. When he ignores these warnings, nature is sure to defeat man. To build a fire is a prime example of this scenario. In the short story, “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, an inexperienced traveler in the Yukon travels alone with his dog, even though it is ill advised to do so. The man is strong…

    Show More

  • The Cost of Pride in Jack London’s To Build a Fire Essay

    582 Words | 3 Pages

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    Show More

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    1014 Words | 4 Pages

    Jack London is an American author, journalist, and social activist. When it is fifty degrees

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To Build a Fire


What is “Naturalism” in To Build a Fire?

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

The natural setting of the brutal arctic conditions of the Klondike, conditions which are indifferent to the presence of a man, express Naturalism, a literary movement among novelists who viewed people as hapless victims of an immutable and indifferent universe. Naturalism writers portray life exactly as it is, with objectivity and detachment.

Naturalism French writer Emile Zola, who described the role of the novelist as that of “a scientist, an analyst, an anatomist” who interprets…

The natural setting of the brutal arctic conditions of the Klondike, conditions which are indifferent to the presence of a man, express Naturalism, a literary movement among novelists who viewed people as hapless victims of an immutable and indifferent universe. Naturalism writers portray life exactly as it is, with objectivity and detachment.

Naturalism French writer Emile Zola, who described the role of the novelist as that of “a scientist, an analyst, an anatomist” who interprets reality through the application of scientific determinism. (Enotes)

Here are elements of Naturalism in ” To Build a Fire “:

  • The protagonist has no name; he is called “the man” in order to make him representative of all people, the rational being in contrast to the dog, who acts upon natural instinct which often serves him better than man’s mental powers. Calling him merely “the man” also mitigates the significance of the protagonist.
  • Nature is indifferent to the man’s plight as he begins to become crippled by frostbite. Since man has no control over nature, the man’s poor decision to venture out into the severe temperatures leaves him a victim to this indifference.

…the mysterious, far-reaching hair-line trail, the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it all—made no impression on the man….He was a newcomer in the land..

  • Lacking the experience of the old man and the instincts of the dog, the man, also falls victim to the harshness of the Yukon. His causal attitude about his initial frostbite is clearly a mistake. Because he is incapable of shaping his own destiny, he is vulnerable to the elements in a deterministic manner that typifies Naturalism.
  • The frigid environment has reduced the man to an animal, but he cannot survive because he is not adapted to this environment as the furry dog is. 
  • As part of nature, the dog instinctively knows not to step where there is water beneath the snow. When the man nears the water, it runs from the man, realizing the danger. Later, when he catches the scent of death, the dog returns to camp, abandoning the man.
  • Literary style. Symbols and details are used in Naturalism. For instance, the snow and ice and severe cold are symbolic of the implacable Arctic. Great attention is given to realistic details in this story; for instance, the man is described quite thoroughly and factually.
Further Reading:
https://www.enotes.com/topics/build-fire/characters
https://www.enotes.com/topics/build-fire/in-depth
https://www.enotes.com/topics/naturalism/in-depth

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