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To Build a Fire

The man in this story faces a most formidable challenge. His survival in extremely cold weather conditions on his way towards the camp. The man does not belong to these parts because unlike the other people he ignores the indicators of danger in the weather conditions. He marvels at the cold temperature levels at the same time failing to understand their implications. A dog accompanies the man. The dog is aware instinctively of the danger of extremely low temperatures. The man does not use his deductive ability as the superior being. He fails to foresee the danger that will befall them by travelling in these extreme cold weather conditions. The dog as much as it is aware cannot communicate the same to its master. This is because of the communication barrier that exists between them (London, 2008). Though, even if the dog could manage to communicate it could not tell him because of their existing relationship of a master and slave.

Although the man heard warnings from the old man, he did not consider the old man wise enough and chose to neglect his warnings. Despite ignoring warnings of extreme weather conditions, the man still could remember some of the lessons from the old man. He navigates his way through the ice watching out for dangerous springs and creeks. He does this to avoid getting wet which could prove dangerous. If he gets wet, he knows the danger of freezing will be detrimental to his life. The more he progresses in his journey; he realizes that the weather is extremely cold beyond the safe zone of fifty degrees below zero. The indication of this is by icing of his spit midair (London, 2009). The man sits to have his lunch and on exposing it to air, it freezes. He is unable to eat it because of his iced spittle that has clung to his beard and lips. He decides to start a fire in an attempt to warm himself and thaw the ice clinging to him.

The man resumes his journey and, unfortunately, he accidentally steps into a hidden spring wetting his legs up to his knees. He knows that he is in danger of freezing unless he can start a fire immediately. He lights a fire and forgets to light it in the open and not under the trees. In his efforts to gather wood and shrubbery for the fire, he disturbs the trees boughs, which have accumulated ice. When he is about to remove his shoes the boughs give in to the pressure of the ices and it spills on his fire putting it out. He starts to worry given that his hands and legs are starting to get numb and to freeze. He starts another fire painstakingly because his fingers are numb and cannot seem to function (London, 2009). He eventually manages to light the fire. Green moss falls on the fire and scatters the twigs, which go out one after the other. His hopes of lighting a fire are no longer viable. He finally sees the truth of the old man’s statement that finding a mate to walk along with in this extreme weather was advisable.

He remembers the story of a man who kills a steer. He crawls into the steer’s carcass to protect himself from freezing to death (London, 2008). The same idea strikes him. He realizes that if he can do the same with the dog he may be able to save his limbs. When he calls out to the dog, it realizes that not everything is satisfactory. The dog refuses to go to as it fears that he intends to harm it. He commands it to come, and he grabs it. He is unable to kill it because his hands are numb and freezing. He realizes the futility of his actions and let go of the dog. He starts to appreciate the wisdom of the old man a little too late. He realizes that he is going to die and reflects on his death and how his friends will find his body. In his daze, he can see himself accompanying them to look for his body. The cold overcomes him and he dies. As, the darkness approaches the dog is growing impatient since it has been expecting its master to light a fire as it is the custom. It smells him, and on realizing that he is dead, it walks away to find the camps, which have life, in them and some comfort.

The story in itself is a reminder of the history of the conflict that exists between man and nature (Pizer, 1993). The old man’s warnings to the man are indicative of the earliest form of passing on information in history by word of mouth. In the past knowledge, transference from one person to another was verbal mostly from an older man with experience to a younger person without experience. In history, there exists a relationship between a slave and the master. This relationship is a situation where the master mistreats and debases his slave. The slave, on the other hand, cannot warn his master in the event he sees his master making an error in judgment. This is because he does not wish to be reprimanded or punished. This relationship is the same with the relationship between man and his dog. The dog was aware of the danger of walking in the cold but could not warn the man even if he could speak. The procedure of making the fire is historical. This is especially for wood and materials to use when lighting a fire.

The importance of the story is its lessons on heading warnings. It is a reminder of the consequences that may befall a person who chooses to ignore the advice of his elders. This story is a reminder for people not ignore the obvious signs of danger. In the story, the man could see that the temperatures were below the safe zone, but he could not construe the meaning of this. He finds trails which have not been in usage for over a month and yet he did not stop to ask himself why. This story teaches of the relationship that exists between man and nature. It teaches that nature will always prevail over man no matter what man does or does not do. The only way man will overcome nature is to obey its rules and not to against the laws of nature. Man being part of nature must conform to the natural phenomenon and not try to combat nature. 

The prevalent feature of the story is the use of nature and its effects on man (Pizer, 1993). The prevalent feature of nature in the story is the cold, freezing weather. The author uses determination in man and his indifference to the weather to illustrate his character in context to the prevalent prevailing feature of the weather. The author uses instinct in the dog against the man’s intelligence to bring the difference in perception and understanding of the weather. In using the man and the dog, he illustrates the survival abilities of each given the existing cold weather conditions. The narrative feature is more predominant than building of the characters and their traits. The author emphasizes on telling the story than building on the characters and, therefore, the information available on the characters is vague and inadequate to understand them in depth. The language that the author uses is understandable and easy to understand the story given its setting and content.

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