Naturalism: Cold and Nature Essay

Submitted By catsattack
Words: 731
Pages: 3

Man Against Nature
Jack London's short story of “To Build a Fire” takes place in Yukon, Alaska during the Gold Rush of the 1890's when Naturalism was present. The main character in the story encounters many conflicts with Nature, one being the struggles to survive in the wilderness, and two letting Naturalism be the conqueror where Nature will always win.
One conflict that's evident between the man and Nature is the 75 below zero degree temperatures and its affects on the man. During the beginning of the story, the narrator points out that the man is traveling to the left fork of Henderson Creek to meet up with his friends at camp, and along the way the man realizes the cold “stood for a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, earflaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks”(London 609). The mans struggle with Nature is demonstrated here by his use of protective clothing in order to protect himself from the freezing temperatures. Naturalism is acknowledged here by showing Man how not wearing the right attire can lead to serious frostbite, and being unsuited for conditions like this can make us face the consequences of Nature. In addition, towards the middle of the story, the narrator also describes that the man frees one hand from his mitten in order to eat his biscut, "but the ice muzzle prevented" (London 613). The cold temperatures of Nature prevent the man from eating along with not being able to open his mouth or move his numb fingers. The man is weak in this situation because Nature does not allow the man to eat which can cuase him to die from starvation.
Another conflict where Nature is more powerful than Man is when the main character attempts to build a fire. The narrator explains the mans second fire that he built under a spruce tree, but due to his lack of imagination, he pulled twigs and branches above the fire, agitating the snow causing it to fall “like an avalanche, and it descended without warning upon the man and the fire, and the fire was blotted out!” (London 616). The mans attempt to build a successful fire failed due to his conflict with the snow on the spruce tree putting it out. The supremacy of Nature against Man is evident here because poor imagination in the wilderness along with its unpredictable weather patterns can ruin your chances of survival. Furthermore, towards the end of the story the man attempts at building his third fire, but due to his numb fingers he can only pick the matches up with the heels of his hands. His clumsilyness forces him to drop the matches that he lit by scratching it across his…