Use of Devices in London’s To Build A Fire
Jack London uses the devices of plot, setting, and
characterization in this short story “To Build A Fire” to convey his
message that humans need to be social. London sets an average, middle-aged
logger in a deserted Yukon trail during a wintry season. The temperature
is seventy-five degrees below zero and the logger and his husky are
traveling towards Henderson Creek, about ten miles away, where the logger’s
companions are located. London places the man in this Yukon environment to
symbolize that in this cold, cruel world, we need to learn how to benefit
from each other.
Prior to embarking on his journey, the logger is given advice from
an old-timer at Sulfur Creek that “no man must travel alone in the Klondike
after fifty below”.
The logger thinks this is “rather womanish” and
believes he can survive by himself. Along his journey, the man encounters
death as he falls into a spring, where “At a place where there were no
signs, where the soft, unbroken snow seemed to advertise solidity beneath,
the man broke through. It was not deep. He wet himself halfway up the
knees before he floundered out to the firm crust”. Then the man builds a
fire beneath a tree and snow falls over it putting it out. London creates
these natural events in the plot to prove they are not the cause of the
Using characterization, London is able to display on account of who
is alive at the end how one benefits from being social. The old-timer at
Sulfur Creek is alive because he is experienced and wise enough to benefit
from others’ experiences that it is not wise to travel alone in the Yukon.
The boys at camp are also alive because they are together and can benefit
from each other. The logger’s husky is alive because it is well-suited for
the Yukon environment, while the logger is not. Unlike the other
characters, London has the man die at the end of the story to display that
he dies because of his arrogance in his ability to travel alone. If the
man travels with a companion, he can benefit from him and possibly return
safely to camp.
London’s point is achieved through these three devices to prove
that the cause of the logger’s death is his rugged individualism which
concludes to not having anyone to benefit from. London’s message is that
all of us need to learn how to be social and learn how to benefit from each
other in order to survive. .