To Build a Fire
The author writes of the main character, “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination.” Why would it be important to have imagination living and travelling in a harsh climate? What other characteristics or qualities does the man have? How are these demonstrated?: With imagination, you can understand the events that could occur where you are travelling, you can understand the troubles that may occur. If you lack this imagination, you’d pack only what you know will happen, and you’ll be unprepared for what could happen. Other important skillsets would be to have a keen eye for natural shifts, general know-how of survival skills, tolerance for pain, and an above average level of fitness. All these qualities will drastically increase your chance of survival in harsh climates. If you have can sense natural shifts, you would know the shifts in weather and prepare for them, And a general know-how of survival skills is important too, even to just to know how to make a fire. And a tolerance for pain is important too, you have to be able to take the pain if you’re going to survive. Lastly, an fitness is important too, you might need to do some running and heavy lifting. Most of these traits are exhibited by the man in the story. However, he missed out on the most crucial of all the qualities, and that’s having an imagination.
When did you first suspect that the man was going to die? How is his death foreshadowed?: To be frank, I only knew he was going to die when Mr. Sader told the class, but the first foreshadow to his death I noticed was right in the beginning. In the first paragraph, when the land was described to have an “intangible pall over the face of things.”
Who or what is the “enemy” in this story? How did the man deal with this enemy? What type of conflict is developed in this story?: I believe that the enemy in this book is the man. In this story, he seems to be his own worst enemy. He’s the one that paved his own road to his death. He decided to pack light. He tried to make a fire under a tree. He made mistake after mistake. The type of conflict this story is man vs. self. Although it’s hard to say who won.
Why do you think Jack London gives no name to the man or dog?: Names provide a sense of particularity, for example, there’s only one William Golding, and only one Jack London. I think the author tries to avoid giving the man and a dog a name to give them a level of generality. To not show that this man without imagination died, it’s to show that men (or women) without imagination die. This is also with the dog, it shows the dog natural preparedness for the climate.
What examples in the story can you find that tell you it was written a long time ago? Could the events in the story occur today? Why or why not?: If it was written sooner, the man would’ve tried to call for help when he got his moccasins wet. And he’s wearing moccasin boots, rather than the standard winter boots we wear now. The story is also taken place during the Klondike gold rush, which happened in 1896. At first, I thought that the story was written recently, but placed in the past because the style of writing seems to be used in modern books. But the story was published in 1902, so I was horribly wrong.