Do you agree with the title of Jack London’s story ‘To Build a Fire’? Give reasons to justify your choice.
Jack London’s ‘To Build a Fire’ is a short story of an unnamed man and a dog in the Klondike region of the Yukon in north western Canada. The title ‘To Build a Fire’ is appropriate as it was only a roaring fire that could have saved the man from trembling cold. The story is structured around budding of tires. The first is for convenience and the last in essential for survival.
Travelling alone at temperatures of seventy five degrees below zero, the man could have survived only by building a tire. Not only the man, but also the dog was aware of the importance of tire in Klondike’s harsh weather conditions. The dog seemed to “question eagerly every unwanted movement of the man as if expecting him to go into camp or to seek shelter somewhere and build a fire. The dog had learned fire, and it wanted fire”.
It was at half-past twelve that he stopped to eat his lunch and realised he had forgotten to build a fire and thaw out. His toes and fingers were numbed and he was a ‘bit frightened”. It was then that he built the fire for the first time and for that moment, the “cold of space was outwitted.” The man after eating lunch continued his journey, disappointed the dog as it longed to remain near the fire.
The man after resuming the trek, fell into an icy spring. He knew it was imperative, at that low temperature, to build a tire to dry himself and thus he worked methodically for it. He collected dry fire-wood, sticks and twigs, seasoned branches and fine, dry, last-year’s grasses. With the help of a match he got the flame and as the llame grew stronger, he increased the size of the twigs with which he fed it. The man ‘worked slowly and carefully” because “when it is seventy-five below zero, a man must not fail in his Iirst attempt to build a fire-that is, if his feet are wet.’ With all his efforts, he built a fire, “snapping and crackling and promising life with every dancing liame” but it was momentary. The tire soon got obliterated by snow from a tree.
It was then that the man was finally scared. It was like his own death sentence. The man was confident that to survive the harsh Klondike’s winter “all a man had to do was to keep his head.” The confidence, however did not serve him. His atteInpt to build a third fire failed. He panicked. He realised the importance of a trail-mate who would have built a fire for him under such circumstances. It was in desperate attempt to build the fire for the third time that he burned his flesh, When he could no longer endure the pain, “he jerked his hands apart’ causing the blazing matches to fall into the snow Failing to build me again he ran about frantically to restore some warmth. But soon he realised its ineffectiveness and resigned to its fate. Unable to build a third fire in the brutal cold, the man slipped into frozen sleep and died. Thus ‘building a fire’ was important for his survival and he perished when he failed to do so.
ISC Echoes Workbook Answers