“To Build a Fire” is written in a third-person omniscient manner in which a man’s arrogance causes him to underestimate the power of nature. London uses the setting and the plot of the story to underscore the theme. That no matter how much control we think we have we are still under the mercy of nature. In this story, the author uses literary elements such as repetition, foreshadowing, and point of view to capture the reader’s attention to the inevitable which is his death.
Jack London uses the deadly situation of the protagonist and the dog hiking along the trail in extremely cold weather and the hazardous setting in “To Build A Fire” to convey the meaning of the story.
The narrator’s point of view is very heterodiegetic as well as all-knowing. The readers can follow the central character’s actions which lead to the character’s death. From a third-person point of view, the author can distance the readers from the character to depict the man’s foolishness and arrogance.
The narrator sets the story by introducing the setting and referring to the main character simply a man with no name “the man turned aside from the main Yukon Trail ”(para. 1). The narrator proceeds throughout the story by using the pronoun “He”. The use of the third person point of view does not give the readers intimate access to the character’s feeling and thought which cause the reader to follow the central character as London does.
A naive and arrogant person who got what he rightfully deserves due to his arrogance towards nature. By using this point of view it is clear to see the theme of the story which is the battle of a naive man versus nature.
London continues to develop the theme throughout the story through the use of repetition. In the story, we are constantly seeing how the main character’s definition of cold continues to be redefined due to the fact that he proceeds to underestimate nature. At the beginning of the story, the central character seemed to overlook the potential danger of the cold temperature “ cold and uncomfortable, and that was all”(para. 3). As the story continues to develop his definition of cold continue to change and worsen all because of his arrogant persona. “It was very cold …had never experienced such cold” (para. 10 ). The reader is able to detect how the character continues to underestimate the freezing temperatures and disregard all warning signs. Another repetitive action that is extremely noticeable in the story is the main character’s attempts to build a fire. “The fire was blotted out” (para. 23). The protagonist tries three times to build a fire and each time having less success than the last. “The fire provider had failed”( para. 26). It is in these repetitive moments that the reader can see how the stubborn man is going to lose the battle with nature because of his egoistic, arrogant personality that caused him to dismiss any advice given by the old-timer. With the use of repetition, the author is able to highlight the important parts of the story and convey the theme.
Furthermore, the use of foreshadowing is very prominent throughout the story. We are often reminded of how cold the temperature is and how cold it is getting, therefore it is inevitable that the unnamed character is underestimating the weather and will soon find himself in a deadly situation. Towards the beginning of the story. the readers can recognize how the central character was just aware of the facts which was that “ fifty below zero was precisely fifty below zero”(Para. 3) but he never anticipated that it could get much colder than what is currently was “that there is anything more to it …was a thought that never entered his head” ( para. 3). At this point, the author is allowing the reader to see the inexperienced hiker downplaying the situation and we are also able to notice the depiction of the character as a naive man. Another main point of foreshadowing that the author threw out there in the story was the old timer’s warning sign. “ no man must travel alone in the Klondike after below fifty” (para. 21). He warned the central character of the danger of hiking in such temperature as an experienced hiker. The central character should have listened to him. But it was because of the character’s lack of experience and arrogant manner that caused him to downplay the power of nature. Jack London is able to make the reader follow the central character under the same scope by illustrating the character as an ignorant man. Therefore, the readers believe that the character got what he deserved; he underestimated the danger of nature and that was his downfall. London’s use of foreshadowing was one of the main literary elements that helped the reader follow along with this character and understand the meaning of the story.
Overall, Jack London was able to convey the theme of the story very well through the use of literary elements. London used point of view, repetition, and foreshadowing to portray the central issue which was the misfortune of the central character. The way that the character behaved towards nature by being so dismissive and arrogant caused him to die. He thought he had so much control but he was wrong he was under the mercy of nature and his defiance caused him to freeze. Jack London successfully developed the theme of the story which is the battle of nature versus man.
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