Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jack London

Jack London wrote the short story "To Build a Fire" about a man in Alaska who is traveling all by his self in a freezing winter. He does very well for a while, but he accidentally steps on thin ice and from there slowly freezes to death. His story is very interesting, and perhaps may have been influenced by Transcendentalists in some manner. However, he treats nature differently that writers like Emerson did, and there is little that can be inferred about his thoughts concerning individualism from the story.

In "To Build a Fire" nature is the antagonist. The man in the story is trying to overcome the bitter coldness of an Alaska winter and return to is camp, or else freeze to death on the trail. He is in conflict with nature, it is his opponent. The Transcendentalists were all about nature. Emerson wrote that nature is the thing that preserves a persons individuality, and teaches them the moral lessons of life (Wayne). To Emerson, nature is the best friend a person could possibly have. There is clearly a very big difference between the way the two authors saw nature, and it is rather unlikely that Emerson influenced London in that respect. One thing the two do have in common in relation to nature is their respect for it. London saw its power in taking life, and respected it for that. Emerson saw its beauty, and had an equal respect for it. They had different reasons for the feeling, but both had it.

London's philosophy about individualism is a little bit difficult to tell from the story. His main character remarks that he should not have traveled alone, but that is more a reasonable matter of safety than a remark on philosophy. That the main character was all by his self in his fight against nature might be telling, but also telling may be that he ended up freezing to death. Really, it could go either way.



London, Jack. "To Build a Fire, by Jack London." The World of Jack London 2012®. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. .

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson:A
Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea
House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 15 Feb. 2012. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.aspItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin=CCRWE0289&SingleRecord=True.

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