Mrs. Saitta-Ringger Name: Ahmed Arslan
Critical Essay Plan
Topic choice: Hope vs. Disillusionment
Author(s) and literary works:
Jack London's: “To Build a Fire” is compared with Ambrose Bierce’s: “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” .
Tentative thesis statement:
In the two essays, I’ll be comparing how Jack London and Ambrose Bierce described the protagonists in their stories, and how they managed to handled their terrible situation at the brink of their life, in the context of hope and disillusionment. Their interplay is shown throughout the context via symbolism and irony. One protagonist hopes to come out alive from the frigid cold of the Yukon valley while the other deluding himself by escaping the reality. Although hopeful, but, however, they were both disillusioned by the harsh reality surrounding their circumstances that led to their demise.
In “To Build a Fire”, Jack London described how the man eventually died because of his foolishness and lack of imagination. However, despite the man’s irrationality, the chechaquo is faced with extremely trying circumstances but he never lost hope. He responded to the difficulties with calmness. He never thought that he was going to die. It was hope that was driving him to reach his intended destination. But alas, it was only in the end that he realized he wasn’t going to make it. He recognized that he acted shamefully, regained control and decided to die with dignity. Throughout the story, several symbols like fire, water, and hands were used that illustrates hope and disillusion. On the other hand, in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” , the use of time, water, bridge and other symbols were used to represent hope and disillusion. Peyton Farquhar with his undying hope drove his imagination to a hoax escape from death. The fine line between the reality and illusion becomes blurred as the human desire to live takes over in his mind. His thoughts sinks into escape by fleeing from reality and turned into fantasy. The end of his imagination is eventually death, but he seemed to do a great deal of living in seconds before his hanging and death.
There are several symbols and irony used to describe hope and disillusionment in “To Build a Fire”. For example, the presence of ‘Fire’ in the story signifies life and hope, while its absence depicts that life is running out. It’s a symbol of hope. If it runs out in the frigid cold temperature of the Yukon, you are pretty much done. Besides, Fire was the only hope in a man’s struggle against the nature. As the man puts it himself,“ When it is seventy-five below zero, a man must not fail in his first attempt to build a fire” (London). The fire also symbolizes the comfort man hopes to achieve eventually. By building fire, he can make it to “the camp where a fire will be going, and a hot supper be ready (London, To Build a Fire)”. However, it also signifies disillusionment at the same time. For example, the title “ To build a Fire” sounds nice and poetic. But it seems to convey a sense of a longing for the fire that wasn’t achieved, just like the man’s desire to live remains unfulfilled in the end. Similarly, the use of Warm Springs beneath the ice, on which the man was traveling seems to give a symbol of hope and life. These warm spring pools “bubble out from the hillsides and under the snow and on top of the ice creek” (London, To Build a Fire). But these warm pools complicate the cold as they posed dangerous problems for the man. It’s ironic that the same water wet’s the man’s feet and sealed his fate. Also, another symbol used in the story were the man’s Hands. The hands could stand as a symbol of hope and disillusionment simultaneously. It gave him hope as he builds his first fire with them. However, when the second fire gets put out by the falling snow from the tree, he failed to rebuild the fire because his fingers froze. He was disappointed to find that he can’t even lit fire with