To Build A Fire
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“His Last Resort”
In the short story “To Build a Fire,” by Jack London, a newcomer crosses the treacherous Alaskan Yukon during the time of the gold rush, in a search to seek great fortune. Unfortunately, his failure to heed to the experienced old timer, as well his lack of knowledge resulted in him being unaware of the danger that faced him from within his surroundings. Thus, the theme of survival is conveyed through setting, sensory detail and characterization.

Fifty degree below weather in the frozen, harsh Alaskan wilderness demonstrates the desperate fight and struggle for survival. The extreme conditions the newcomer faced was no place to venture without the experience and knowledge of the Yukons harsh environment. Yet the man was warned by the old timer never to travel alone, despite this, he journeys out to meet friends at the camp. The man came unprepared with not enough gear for continued existence. He brought only a lunch wrapped in a handkerchief, as well as a pack of matches. The path he was on was the main trail leading south five hundred miles to Dawson. Walking countless miles along the hairline path of frozen ice, he looks out in every direction, only to see the sight of the white unbroken snowfall. Living life in these conditions was very scarce, therefore, only such a fool should travel through alone. The air was glacial, for that reason the man knew that the temperature must have been falling. “Undoubtedly, it was colder then fifty below. How much colder he did not know. He knew at fifty below spittle crackled on the snow but this spittle had crackled in the air” (418). The man had known that at 50 degrees below, the spittle would crackle in the snow; therefore, he should have realized it was too cold to be in those conditions unaccompanied. The fact that the spittle cracks in the air before touching the ground indicates that its freezing on the impact of the air meaning it is even colder then 70 below. This exemplifies the extreme danger the man is faced with in these settings. The temperature must have been colder then the man had even realized. Although, the newcomer was not yet aware of what was to come of the danger that exist in these conditions he was soon to be sentient.

Furthermore, sensory detail powerfully provokes the extreme struggle to save his life. The language the author uses to tell the story makes you feel as if you were standing out in the extreme iciness with the man, feeling your body initiate the first signs of your fingers and toes going lifeless and anesthetized. When the mans feet become wet in such a cold temperature, it means great trouble and danger for him as his feet proceed with frostbite. The weather surroundings are so frigid he implies the fact there is slimming chances for life. This should have served as a reminder to the man of his “frailty as a creature of temperature.” The vivid descriptions they give you depicts how absolutely frozen it is outside. His feet felt the absence of feeling for quite some time now. It is a necessity the man makes a fire otherwise he will loose his feet. The remarkable cold had driven the feeling out of his fingers, making it almost impossible to ignite a fire. “The ice crackled and snapped when by a violent effort he opened his mouth. He drew the lower jaw in, curled his upper lip out of the way and scrapped the bunch with his upper teeth in order to separate a match”(424). The way that the man had such enormous troubles separating the match, implies that frost bite was setting in. He was so numb he could not move his fingers. He was down to his last resort by trying to use his ice-covered

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Extreme Conditions And Short Story. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from