Symbolic Portrayal Of The Theme Of Man Vs Nature In To Build A Fire By Jack London

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Imagery plays a role in supporting the theme of Man vs. Nature and pride in To Build a Fire. For instance, in the beginning, the man sees the trail and decided to spit into the air and before it could fall it “became ice that broke with a noise” (London 65).

This was very detailed and one can vividly imagine a picture of that happening. This example shows the theme of pride because he still had a chance to turn back and listen to the old-timer however, this was not the case. Another example of imagery is when the man is eating tobacco it says, “the ice held his lips so tightly” that the juice formed a “yellow piece of ice hanging from his lips” and if it were to fall it would break (London 67).

These examples not only help an individual vividly see how cold and dangerous it was, but it also connects to the theme by showing how overpowering nature was. The spit and the juice turning into ice was a sign that the weather was too cold to travel in. It is taking away his human need in staying warm and not being able to eat because his face was all frozen. The last example of imagery will show how awful the situation ended. For instance, towards the end, the fear of death got to the man and he started to run like crazy chickens or like in a horror movie when they are running for their lives.

That reminded me of how the man looked running with everything he had hoping to reach the camp with tears and clumsiness. This example illustrates how he lost hope due to his failure in his fight with nature. These three examples make one see and feel how he felt. Truly shows how powerful the freezing temperatures of nature can be. We see how his strength and determination quickly disappears. His enemy was nature and he failed to see the danger of the cold.

Symbols that support the theme are fire, the dog, and the old-timer. According to Infoplease, fire “has helped keep humanity warm through the ages” especially during the winter (Hughes). In fact, the fire in the story does keep the characters warm, but it also represents life, survival, and death. For instance, the fire is an important tool for their survival in the Yukon, therefore, symbolizes life or death. When the fire is lit the man and his dog have warmth, but when it is not lit the man’s chances of survival in nature lowers. To put it in another way, when the man tries to build a fire again, he can’t and ends up burning all 70 matches at the same time. Then, after trying to keep it alive “the fire provider failed” (London 73).

After failing, his chance to survive in nature is also failing and will result in death. The dog always knew the fire would keep them warm and help them survive in freezing temperatures. Saying this, the Huskey is a symbol that represents the weakness of the man. It represents the instincts the man didn’t have to survive in the Yukon. For instance, the dog knew it wasn’t a good idea to travel and wanted to stay. Another example is when the man makes the very first fire, the dog wanted to stay by the fire to stay warm and survive. However, the man did not pay attention and continued with pride. It is important to realize if the man had the dog’s instincts he could’ve survived. However, due to the lack of instincts he did not. The old-timer would have survived due to his wisdom. He symbolizes the knowledge and everything else the man didn’t have.

Throughout the story, the old-timer’s advice saves the man many times. For instance, the man remembers the advice on how to check for ice and water, but the greatest advice he should’ve followed was not traveling alone. That advice had the power to save his life, but he did not listen. This points out how the wise man symbolizes the knowledge the man did not have, to not underestimate the power of nature.


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