The Wild Unknown

In Jack London’s “to build a fire”, a tale is told of freezing. Of succumbing to the forces of nature. The character of the man is a proud one. He believes that he can make it to his camp without a partner, something another traveler had told hm could not be done. London repeatedly mentions that the man is “without imagination” or not extremely creative in thought. However, he does have a  large knowledge about the wild. The man ultimately fails and freezes because he was ill prepared and foolish. It was much colder then he thought and a partner would have been a help to him and he may have survived. He also makes foolish decisions like prematurely stopping to make a fire. Londons vivid description of the wilderness and the mans thoughts contrasts sharply with what the man is actually thinking. The man doesn’t realize most of the things described in the narrative and this is his downfall. this in contrast to the Dog who natural instincts and physical attributes provide it with defense against the forces of nature. The mans pride is ultimately his downfall and London provides us with a perspective that can help us in our everyday struggles: There are many things we dont know, and we should never take them for granted. In this story that is why the man fails. He gets advice but ignores it believing himself to be sufficient. He does not take into account the things that are not known such as the uncommon cold or tree with snow that puts out his fire. Nature defeats him because he did not prepare for the hardships of nature.

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One thought on “The Wild Unknown

  1. I agree that a main theme in this piece was, as you said, that there are “many things we don’t know, and we should never take them for granted”. I also agree that this a cause of why the man fails. His hubris blinds him, and holds him back in many ways, ultimately killing him. He is cut off from creativity, something that if he were to really succeed in his endeavor by himself, would be very, very necessary. I think a sub-theme of this narrative is the importance of wisdom; wisdom to let go of your pride. Wisdom to simply stop, look, and listen in difficult situations, rather than rushing into action(such as prematurely creating a fire). And finally, the wisdom of knowing your boundaries, a fallacy that resulted in this character’s death.

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