Jack London's Short Story to Build a Fire

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 354 |

Page: 1|

2 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

Words: 354|Page: 1|2 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

The protagonist embarks on a treacherous journey in extreme weather conditions, despite warnings from an elder. The story explores the conflict between human knowledge and animal instinct, with the man's knowledge ultimately failing him while the animal's instinct saves it.

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From the beginning of the story, London highlights the vanity of the man's knowledge. The man takes pride in accepting the challenge of walking in freezing temperatures, but he does not fully grasp the significance of the weather because he is a newcomer to the area. In contrast, the animal appears wary of the dangers ahead, relying on its instincts.

This conflict between knowledge and instinct becomes more apparent when the man forces the dog to lead. The man believes that the spring in the area never freezes and the snow on top conceals any hidden traps. However, the dog falls into a pitfall but quickly recovers, relying on its instinct to survive. When the man himself gets his feet wet, his knowledge fails him and he suffers frostbite. In contrast, the dog's instinct saves it from freezing its paws and facing death.

While the story explores various themes, such as man's struggle against nature, the conflict between knowledge and instinct is the most prominent. This conflict is evident in the man's fate - despite his knowledge, he fails in his mission and his ability to survive in harsh conditions. His knowledge even leads him to believe that running will save him, but this ultimately proves futile. On the other hand, the dog, with its basic instinct, is able to survive the harsh conditions.

The story raises questions about human superiority and intellect. Humans often take pride in their intellectual abilities, yet when it comes to survival in hostile environments, animals, which rely solely on instinct, often fare better. This highlights the limitations of human knowledge and the power of instinct.

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Overall, "To Build a Fire" explores the conflict between knowledge and instinct, emphasizing the limitations of human knowledge in the face of nature's ferocity. The story serves as a reminder that while knowledge is valuable, instinct can be a powerful tool for survival.

  1. London, Jack. "To Build a Fire."
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Jack London’s short story To Build a Fire. (2024, February 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Jack London’s short story To Build a Fire.” GradesFixer, 12 Feb. 2024,
Jack London’s short story To Build a Fire. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Jack London’s short story To Build a Fire [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Feb 12 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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