To build a fire- Literature Studies: Short Story Theme

In class we read the story “To Build a Fire” by Jack London. The story is about a prideful man travelling through a harsh climate in the Yukon and becomes a victim to the cold. There were two crisisses in the book, the first being the man has to battle against nature in order to survive. The second is the man struggling with his previous decisions. The theme in this story is how the main character is too prideful.


The man is very proud of himself throughout the book. He is proud of his excellent time, he ignores advice thinking that he is an expert at everything, and he considers himself far superior to his dog. The man is pleased with the time he made at the beginning of the story despite getting wet and almost losing his dog.  The man also decides to ignore the advice of the old man (who had probably been in the Yukon for a very long time) and travelled alone. In the story it also tells how the man was going to leave the dog to die and then was going to kill it so that he could have some of its warmth. The story tells how the dogs intuition is better than the man’s yet the man continues to consider himself as a superior to the dog.


The first type of conflict that arises in the story is the man vs. nature. The man packs lightly and does not have any of the proper gear in order to survive. The temperature was at least minus 70 which is far too cold for vulnerable humans to stay in for any period of time.


The man travels through the Yukon in freezing temperatures. He decides to pack lightly and choses to travel alone with the acception of bringing a dog as a companion. The man ignores another man’s advice after he decides that he will be fine and be able to survive the freezing temperatures alone. The man’s foolish decisions end up hurting him at the end of the story, which would be a man vs. self conflict.


The theme in this story is the man being too prideful and making bad decisions. The man is unable to live through the extremely cold weather, which could have been avoidable if he had made better choices. The main message that the author was trying to send was that man is too proud of themselves.

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