Stretching Minds With Short Stories- To Build A Fire

To Build A Fire
To Build A Fire

To Build a Fire

The topic of "man against nature" is always something that can stir up fierce debate. Everyone is all about what they would have done differently, what they wouldn't have done at all, and often what they wouldn't know how to do in the first place. It always seems to take awhile for anyone to acknowledge the presence of strength and courage, or to question the thirst for adventure that defines a specific character's role in a novel. It takes even longer for them to question what just might be seen as that character's lack of caution, and even possibly their "pure stupidity." Man against nature, which will prevail? Can anyone ever pit themselves against those same forces of nature and truly survive? Is it really survival, or is it just plain old luck?

Jack London
Jack London

"The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

This quote has long fascinated me, and it speaks volumes about the man that Jack London once was, who he became, and why the tales he told carried such truths. He was self-educated; his knowledge came from nothing more than the desire to learn, and forays into the world of the public library. The brilliance was there, but without the outlet that would give him that knowledge, the longing to attain that knowledge, and his thirst to be better and do better, we would never have met this man, or have been able to see the world through his eyes. My attempting to describe where he came from, or the obstacles he faced would be futile, as no one can describe it better than the man himself;

"I was born in the working-class. Early I discovered enthusiasm, ambition, and ideals; and to satisfy these became the problem of my child-life. My environment was crude and rough and raw. I had no outlook, but an uplook rather. My place in society was at the bottom. Here life offered nothing but sordidness and wretchedness, both of the flesh and the spirit; for here flesh and spirit were alike starved and tormented."--"What Life Means To Me" from Revolution and Other Essays (1910).

London was an adventurer, a laborer, a pirate, and a tramp. His desire to become a writer was one of necessity rather than choice. He was simply determined that he not spend his life performing menial labor, and that his love of reading could blossom into a lifetime of writing, that he could simply "be better" than what he believed was his destiny. His belief was correct, and his writings live on; he lived his dream. What could be better than that, and how fortunate we are as readers to be able to share it through the words and tales he's left us.

To Build A Fire/ Summary

“The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice.”

Our story begins on the Yukon Trail, it's a freezing day in the middle of winter. The temperature reads -100, and we immediately ask ourselves who on Earth would be traveling on foot in an uninhabited, wild area, with no other company than his Husky-Wolf dog?

The answer is simple; it's simply a man, a man who has begun his journey against the advice of a Yukon native, someone who knows, but he does not listen; he is not a young man, but he is a newcomer to the area, and he is initially unfazed by the frigid weather. He is ignorant, and even worse; he is arrogant. He believes that his journey will take only a matter of hours, and he has planned his journey down the the last detail, or so he believes. Our main character is learned, but he is inexperienced. He holds the facts and knowledge that he needs to know within his mind, but he lacks the experience to be able to define what they really mean, and to apply them to his situation. So it is on this day that he lives his destiny; this is the day he believes himself to be smart, invincibility at its best, so he sets off on his own, and the journey begins

Invincibility

The temperature initially reads at -50 degrees, it is beyond whatever cold we have ever known, and yet the man sets off to find his friends; they are expecting him in camp. He is what he believes to be prepared; mittens, check; ear flaps, check; moccasins and thick, warm socks, check; he carries his lunch of biscuits and bacon wrapped in a package within his shirt to keep it warm, and the thought of leisurely stopping along the trail for a warm and delicious interlude makes him smile.

It doesn't take long for the man to realize that it's colder than he believed; he spits into the air and hears the faint crackle of ice as it breaks into the air around him. The dog is visibly upset, it wants to stop, and it wants warmth; its instincts warn that all is not right, but the man pays no attention, and the dog who has learned from where its food and warmth come from, continues along. He begins to realize how cold it is when it becomes apparent that his cheeks are exposed, and that they're going to freeze, that his nose will do the same. The whiskers on his face are not enough to provide it with cover, and the chewing tobacco he uses consistently begins to dribble into his beard lengthening into what resembles a copper colored glass; frozen, solidified, and capable of shattering into a million shards.

When he reaches a place named Henderson Creek he realizes that he is only ten miles from the forks he needs to reach, and by his best estimate he is traveling at maybe four miles per hour. Only ten miles to go, and he can stop for lunch. So he moves on with the dog close on his heels, and it seems that of the two, only the dog is feeling apprehensive as it slinks ever closer to its master, tail between its legs. Further along his cheeks and nose are becoming ever more numb, and he realizes that the friction supplied by his mittens is not going to save his face. He regrets not having brought along a nose strap to save if only that from the elements, but this was no time to worry, and no time to be distracted by things that couldn't be helped. The path was ever changing, and he needed to be aware. The creek bed was erratic, not every layer was frozen solid, and to plunge through the ice could leave him wet to the waist. In some places it was obvious, and in others he would see the fear in the eyes of the dog who would shy away and move no further, but his own fear led him to push the dog out in front, and then the dog fell in soaking its legs and coat, a soaking that would immediately freeze leaving the dog to chew at the ice on its legs and paws. Instinct and survival; the basic instincts of an animal as opposed the inherent instincts of men. In the never ending battle against nature just who will prove to have the best instincts? Man or beast?

Unwarranted Relief?

As he reached the forks by the creek he was immensely relieved to find that he'd only lost a half an hour, and that all things considered he was still making good time; he should arrive at his destination approximately when he had planned to. He settled down on a log, longingly thinking of sandwiches and the end of his journey. He'd only had one mitten off momentarily to remove his lunch when he realized that his fingers had gone completely numb in only seconds; he couldn't hold the sandwich; he couldn't move his fingers; he couldn't feel his toes inside of his moccasins, and even worse, he was unable to open his mouth. His mouth was frozen, and whatever parts of him had continued to hold warmth, they were freezing too, and quickly.

Upon this realization he quickly moved to gather branches with which to make a fire; he admonished himself for not listening to the old man who'd advised him about the true fierceness of the cold. Taking out his matches he built a roaring fire and thawed himself to the point where he could once again feel his hands, open his mouth, and finally, eat his lunch. The dog was comfortable, happy to have the fire, and curled up just far enough away that it wouldn't be singed by the flames.

Mistakes and More Mistakes

Thawed and once again ready to move on the man gets ready to leave the sanctuary provided by the fire. The dog is restless, and doesn't want to leave, whining in its rebellion, and then the man whistles, and the dog moves to obey. Their relationship is described as one being the master and the other the "toil-slave," the dog knew that disobedience would mean the whip, so he didn't disobey. He knew better; he knew who fed him, and he wanted to eat.

It's not long before an error in judgement or lack of observation finds the man knee deep in water. Rather than panicking about what the ramifications of being soaked through will mean, he curses that this will cause him delay; he doesn't worry that what has happened may indeed cost him his life. He stops and builds another fire, cautiously removing his foot gear in order for it to dry. His hands and feet are without feeling once again, and then with no warning the loosened snow on a nearby spruce begins its careless descent to douse the newly burning fire.

And this is where we end, but the story moves on........... and that would mean you'll have to read it yourself.

Man -vs- Nature

When I sent the children home with this story last week I requested one thing of them, well, one thing besides reading it that is, and that was to think about nature in every form, and ask themselves what if any survival skills they've acquired. Did they believe that they have any skills whatsoever to BEAT nature, and if nature decided to test those skills, did they believe that they would have a chance against her.

This story is so simple, and yet so complex. There are only three characters; a man, a dog, and finally the story's antagonist; the ever mysterious, mother nature. Our story's main character is of course, the man. He's been described as an older man, and he seems to be somewhat arrogant. Within the course of the story we learn that he's been warned by someone far more experienced that his foray is dangerous, that the elements are unforgiving, that he should never try to make a trip like this on his own, and yet he doesn't listen. This is where our discussion begins. Why don't we listen to the words of those who are more experienced? Why do we flout their advice?


Where the discussion went....... was nowhere I thought to be going.

Well, to begin with, starting a discussion in this way with a group of twelve and thirteen year olds, what was I thinking? In all honesty, what I was thinking was that I could infiltrate young minds and the reason for rebellion against what I will term as parental guidance. I was after all once their age, even if it was a very long time ago. What they gave me was as always, totally unexpected. My expectance was simply the age old, my parents know nothing; what I got was, we just want to do something; anything.

What does this mean you ask? It means simply this, our children believe themselves to be scheduled into the ground. Everything they do has its own schedule. This feeling included school, shopping, sports, socializing with friends, visiting family, and even television. They feel as if they never learned how to play, or just go outside and amuse themselves because their parents have carefully calculated and accounted for every moment of their time. They can't run down the block and ring a doorbell because they have to phone first, they can't spontaneously invite someone over because it might interfere with the schedule. They can't walk because they need to be supervised, they have to be driven because it's not safe, and they can't just go pick up a game of baseball at the park because there might be undesirables in the vicinity.

Although I understand this train of thought, and I even sympathize; let's face it I was never in the house, and I don't think many people my age were, but I know why their parents find it all necessary, and to some degree I raised my own children in a very similar way. Unfortunately, we ran so far off of the beaten path that I ended up having to stop them mid-sentence; our discussion had run amuck!


Can we beat nature? Is it possible?

So, we returned to the theme of man against nature, much against their wills, and I admit to having a very difficult time reeling them in. Nature as an antagonist; an act of God; nature, the one thing we will never be able to control, and the one thing that will always prevail; can we beat her? The answer was a unanimous, no! They found the application of the story to their own personal experiences almost impossible to connect. Survival skills were deemed non-existent; they don't have any; they would be calling for help, the dog sled AAA. They talked about hurricane Katrina, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes. They acknowledged the impossibility of preparations under those circumstances, and they acknowledged that their lack of knowledge and inexperience would make survival almost impossible. Like the man in the story, their preparations would leave them with a death sentence hanging over their heads.......... how could he make the fire if he couldn't move his hands?

Each of them felt that the man's actions were stupid at best; they felt compassion and empathy for the dog who knew better, and they felt that the man's refusal to see that the dog was indeed warning him was a sign of his arrogance and a lack of common sense. They talked about storms, simple thunderstorms, and how they can suddenly roll in without warning, and then they talked about how if you really listened you would hear the warning. The warning is silence; the silence of the birds and their disappearance from the sky; the dog who crawls under the bed long before the first sounds of thunder. Lack of noise, lack of movement, and the epiphany that only humans are still wandering around ignoring the intelligence of the less intelligent. Man against beast, and which is sometimes the wiser for all their lack of brain mass. Then the discussion quickly left me again; never say I haven't warned you; they are full of surprises!

On which direction are we pulling them?
On which direction are we pulling them?

Their biggest fear......... and the worry about what it would take to survive!

The surprise............ war, but why would I be surprised? What had already been a discussion of survival morphed itself into a fear that one day they would have to live and survive a war in their own country, but where did this come from? Our children watch the news, probably more than I do, and they worry about world events far more than we give them credit for. Their thoughts focused on questions; what would they do without luxuries, how would they handle shortages of food, how do you build a fire if you need to, if there's no gas in your home, no electricity. How do you make a call without a phone? Where do you go if you find yourself under attack? One of the boys answered the question of how to build a fire by saying that the text we'd just read had been like watching a video, but then again, what if he had no matches?

They voiced many concerns over things that they considered reality, things that could be real in their own lives. They had lost all interest in analyzing the actions of a character they couldn't relate to, someone who didn't have the sense to stay out of the cold. He was simply a character, and he was no longer important to them. The importance of survival, and the battle between man and nature had changed. Their worries are not consumed by the ever changing and volatile "mother nature," their worries are based on their ultimate fear, that being "human nature." 

Truthfully, this may be the furthest this group of children has ever gone off topic, but their discussion was also like a mirror into their minds. I don't mind going off topic, and I love when they open up enough to let me know what they're really thinking. I mean, what's the point if they're constantly trying to follow my cues......... when the reason I actually do this is to follow theirs. The goal is to make them think, and they do. I have once again been humbled by their minds, and once again happy to know what they're thinking. We don't know if we don't ask, and I don't think we ask often enough.

Next Week: Ray Bradbury - The Million-Year Picnic, and yes, he is back by demand!

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Comments 30 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

This is a remarkable hub and you are a remarkable and gifted writer. Thank you.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Pop, thank you.......... I think the same of you. You always get me to think in the same way I want the kids to......... I looked up the article about the little boy yesterday; I am still speechless, and quite frankly disgusted. I will be stopping back at your Hub to comment on that when I've researched it some more. Thanks again!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

You are a magnificent writer, Kaie. One of the very best on HubPages. Your work deserves to be far more widely read.

Jack London is a fascinating man and writer. The discussion with your children provided great reading. When I was their age, we were also quite concerned about war, living as my generation—much older than yours I am sure—was, in the cold war with the threat of nuclear bombs hanging over our heads.

Survival skills are taught extremely well by the now under-fire Boy Scouts of America. Generations of boys have learned how to do apply the exact skills required to survive when pitted against the awesome power of mother nature. Because this organization is not politically correct, they have, sadly, been defunded by many charities.

I loved the Hub. It's great to see you back in action.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

James- Thank you for your compliments; your work is equally enjoyed and respected. So to put it simply......... right back atcha! ;-)

Jack London was an unbelievable writer; there was a time I admittedly shelved him because for whatever reason I disagreed with his politics, but I have since put that aside. The reader in me decided that the literature could be appreciated outside of the platform he represented. His writing stands alone.

Discussions with my children are always eye opening. They have no idea how much I love them, respect their views, or how truly devastated I am going to be when they graduate this year. I've had them with me for six years.......... it's going to be hard to send them off.

The Boy Scouts are an irreplaceable organization. Both of my nephews went through their program from start to finish. They are fine young men, and yes, they were taught many skills. The fact that they've been defunded due to "political correctness" is sad, maybe that is why this program isn't available anywhere near where I live. If the organization has ever had a program nearby where I live, I've never known of its availability.

Thanks again.......... good to be back, but there are other places I both love to be and would rather be. I'm not going to lie about that!


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Very interesting and well-written Hub...I read somewhere that Lack London would save up his rejection slips and use them to decorate his Christmas tree...perseverance is a strong attribute for any writer...Thank you for this, and count me as a new fan, or follower, or whatever they want to designate us ...Larry


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Maven101- Thank you, and yes, if a writer is unable to claim perseverance as an attribute; they will usually sadly find themselves unread outside of the people who love them......... the people who shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh, no, not again!"

I will count you in, and I am happy to do it. I believe when I started writing here the term was "fan," and that it has now been changed to "follower." Actually, the "follower" thing is a little creepy, but hey........ whatever knocks their socks off!

Thanks again!


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

I stay on the dog side. Human forget easily to respect nature and the earth until an earthquake reminds them of their real place in the world. I like London's books, especially Call of the Wild. It's a pity he didn't have a good enough reason to go on and ended his life as he did. I didn't knew Scouts are not politically correct, anyway their knowledge and training should be everybody's knowledge. You never know when you can be out of matches.

Very interesting hub. Thumb up! :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

I know you will miss those children you love and have devoted yourself, too. They will never forget you and your work will have impact in ways you'll never know.

I am a bit offput by London's Socialist views but Orwell had similar views and I surely enjoy his incredible works. So, as you say, we can separate the art from the political views of the artists in many cases. Merry Christmas!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Hypnodude- I'm right there with you! My dogs are far more more perceptive than I will ever be. When they show signs of fear or anger.......... I listen!

I am also a huge fan of the "Call of the Wild," and I would love to be able to pull out a novel with these kids, but I've learned over the years that novels just don't serve the purpose for what I do. The students have no lack of novels to read during the school year, and my adding another to the list means that I lose them....... it becomes just another job, another assignment, something they have to get done.

My purpose is in the introduction........ they walk away from a short story having hopefully learned to appreciate the author, having found a writer that peaks their interest, an author they'll look for in the library or in the bookstore when their focus is to read for enjoyment. Children are afraid of the words "classic literature" because they perceive them to be too difficult and too boring. That's where I come in........... my job is show them that nothing is too difficult, and that even if they're not crazy about the content.......... they're not going to find it boring!

Thank you for the thumbs up; I am glad you enjoyed it!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

James- Yes, I will miss them.......... they have given me more joy than they will ever know; they are and will always be very special to me. If I have have been fortunate enough to impact their lives in only half the way they have impacted my own.......... I can live with that.

Moving on is something we all have to do; sometimes we move on because we have to, sometimes because we want to. I find myself moving on as well, and I'm doing it because I want to.............. it's the gift of the future. I'll be taking that gift, happily!


GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California

Kaie....this is an amazing hub! Really well written and a very important message!

The detail in this hub is stunning. I felt like I was in a scene from a movie in a classroom and I saw the "scenes" flashing in between the story telling! I hope you have a very Happy New Year! Best, G


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

GPAGE- Thank you for reading! I think that every message the kids send out is important. I am always taken back by the way they voice their interpretations, and how completely different those interpretations can be from my own.

I remember my introduction to London's writings as a journey. They were an opportunity to travel and experience adventure. Whereas I would read and think, "Wow, I want to go to this place!" They think, "Why would anyone be crazy enough to want to do this?"

Naivety -vs- realism........... My kids, they think safety first. They're growing up in a world where they've learned to question the whys and what ifs, and we're the ones who have taught them to question those things. Me....... I'm still the naïve one; I'd make the journey. You never know where you're going to end up until you take the walk!


iAccura profile image

iAccura 6 years ago

Kaie, thank you for your interpersonal reactions with your students, heaven only knows that they need this and more in their journey in life that gives them the experiences to build beliefs in reality. We adults have so long been limited by limiting beliefs, children do not need to add to their own limiting beliefs when knowledge is so available.

Best to you in the New Year.

iAccura.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

iAccura......... you have no idea; there are no thanks necessary, but I do thank you.

These kids are the reason I go to work everyday. They are the only reason I do what I do, and although there are days I could easily walk away from what the educational system is.......... I would never walk away from them.

So many people (adults especially) think that they have limitations; they forget that unlike most adults these kids don't know the term "personal limitations." I so often see the adults I work with, student's parents, and even their friends try to place limitations where they aren't warranted, where they don't exist. There were times I myself felt the boundaries of limitations, but then I figured out there are no boundaries except the ones we place before ourselves. I don't want them to have to learn that; I want them to know it.

Thanks for stopping by, and a Happy New Year to you!


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Jack London was one of the reasons why I picked up my pen to write back in the fifth grade. We were learning about the Klondike and the Yukon trail and so covered this story. It just resonated with me and gripped me and refused to let go. You wrote a very compelling hub and review on an absolute classic. Thanks!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Dohn121- Sorry it has taken me so long to respond; I admittedly sometimes take forever to check comments, but eventually I do! :-)

Yes, Jack London is a truly inspirational author.

You learned about the Klondike and Yukon Trail in fifth grade? Education has certainly digressed.......... my kids had no idea what either were, let alone that they were in Alaska.

I am glad that this "absolute classic" gripped you and held on; it is a classic. I loved Jack London's writings as a girl because I am admittedly a bit of a wanderer. Everything was about the next adventure, the next place I wanted to go, actually it's still about the next adventure. Adventures are the things you can keep forever........... and you keep them happily!

Thank you for reading..........


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I used to teach this short story. Excellent discussion you have here!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

habee- Is this not an amazing short story to work with? It has everything you could possibly want in great literature, and it takes no time at all to read. Students tend to be completely intimidated by the classics........ the short story is what I consider a "fear buster." They allow the kids to get their feet wet, and convince them there's nothing to be afraid of! ! Thanks for stopping by.

Kaie


Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

I liked your analysis of the story and your inclusion of the young folks' thoughts on the matter. It's been years since I'd read that story, and I still feel sorry for the dog.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Silver Poet- Thank you........... the young folk's thoughts are all that really matter......... it's a great story, and I think they interjected their thoughts, opinions, and feelings quite honestly. In retrospect, what they came away with is so very different from what I remember my thoughts to be the first time I read it! :-D

I'm with you though.......... still feeling sorry for the dog. he was a pretty smart critter.......... a lot smarter than the man he traveled with!

Thanks for stopping by!

Kaie


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Kaie thanks for sharing Jack London's work but even more so the descriptions with your own children this is great and nothing better than interaction with your own children - people forget they have opinions and aspirations - you don't do that. There are so many great lessons and stories from man and nature - it seems that ultimate test doesn't it. Great inspirations here for writers and parents. Thanks again :)


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Billy-I love sharing the kids! I started this series in response to all of the negativity that surrounds education; kids aren't as smart today, teachers don't do their jobs, agendas, and so on and so forth. So in my own way this began as a way to say, "you're wrong."

My kids are brilliant and insightful; they love to read, and because of cuts in gifted education this group spends their "off" time reading and discussing with me. When the program was cut, everyone thought it would just quietly disappear. I asked to keep one group, the upper grade, and was told, "They're not going to show up after school," but they did......... every week. Maybe this year I can expand and have two, take back fifth and sixth grade........... we shall see! I work in special education, and for the most people don't understand that the "exceptional child" includes the gifted child, or that "no child left behind," means NO CHILD, at least for me!

Book club is my favorite day of the week, it's a breath of fresh air!

Thanks for stopping by.......... Kaie


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

I loved reading Jack London books and still have one that my parents had given to me as a gift when I was a child. Really enjoyed reading about how you teach and your student's responses.

Sad to think that someday they imagine a war in our country and are worrying about survival skills. In my school days during the cold war, we had regular drills where IF the bombs were coming from Russia, we ducked under our school desks for safety. Some people built bomb shelters.

That was a long time ago and fortunately none of those drills or preparations ever had to be enforced. Hope the children of today can also put aside today's threats in the same way. We can all hope!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Peggy- Jack London will always be one of my favorites, and he's a great choice for the kids, especially the boys.

We have a bomb shelter in the basement of our school, and I've taken a few groups down to look at it. It has frightened some, but more often than not it proves to be a great curiosity. The kids are awed by its presence, and they're also somewhat comforted to know it's there.

Me, I asked my dad to build me a bomb shelter when I was a little girl. He was a total history buff when it came to the first and second world wars. so we'll blame him for my initial fears of a bombing.

The first time I went down to look at the shelter was before a regional meeting, at a time when there was talk of putting an addition on the school. I came up from my adventure with a package of saltines and a bottle of aspirin. There were huge stores of them left from the time of the Cuban missile crisis. I left them on my boss' desk........... ah, but he wasn't amused by the appearance of saltines preserved by formaldehyde or the bottle of aspirin. I think they have since been removed.

Anyway- the story was great fun, and the discussion was as always quite interesting. Thanks for stopping by! Kaie


jenna 5 years ago

Great story but a few questions. In what way do you see the suspense in this story? Do you think any given detail could have been eliminated or even changed in the result of a greater impact? Also how do you or does anyone feel about the success in the story about the conflict humans have in nature? Thank you


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago Author

Jenna- I actually see the suspense in this story as anti-climactic. Our main character makes his first mistake at the outset- he decides he's tougher than the weather, smarter than those with experience. What follows is not so much suspense as it is the lesson that no one, no matter his/her arrogance can predict or control nature. The man's downfall was his belief that he had the power to control his surroundings and be successful.

Do I believe that details could have been changed or eliminated for greater impact? Absolutely not. London took this character through what was a very short period of time with the greatest detail. His details record those few hours in a ways that we as readers wouldn't presume without them. My students are always "grossed out" by the descriptions of the man's beard in direct reaction to his use of chew- the freezing and the inability to use his mouth. For most of us it would be impossible to understand the implications of such small actions as we've never had to survive that type of cold. London spent huge amounts of time in the area and used these facts to help the reader understand that we can't understand. Once the character reaches a certain point he doesn't have the choice to go back or give up- at that moment the reader chooses to sense the inevitable or to cheer the man on.

Man against nature always makes for a good story. Ultimately, nature has the greatest odds for winning. Man tends to be predictable- even those who believe themselves to be completely prepared can't ignore the fact that nature is NOT predictable. I think the story succeeds in establishing that nature, not man has the upper hand.

I hope this answers your questions........... thanks for reading! Kaie


jennajenna76 5 years ago

Very helpful. I read this story and find that you understand the concept of his writing. I have read many other opinions, and honestly I do not see how one can point this into slavery. My point of view on this story leads me to believe that he was trying to make a point to the naïve, and that one should listen to their elders and their experience. I am a mother and I too give my daughter advice. However, does she listen? Not at all, but then again the young must learn. Then will they see we were right.


jennajenna76 5 years ago

I have more questions. Bye the way I thank you for putting the information in great detail. This helps me understand the reasons for why he wrote this story the way he did. In advance Thank You!

Question:

How do you think the dog would express his thoughts to this man? What were the dog's hopes, fears, and his feelings were not only to the man but in how the story progresses?

What was the relationship between the man and dog?, and how would one describe the level of communication, such as the needs and desires? Do you see any possible conflicts?

I am trying to understand the dog. However, to better understand him in these ways would make the story more of an interest. Thank You.


jennajenna76 5 years ago

My peers and I are having a disagreement on the above questions and wanted to ask an experts opinion to see who would be more accurate thank you!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago Author

Jenna- I am by no means an expert- everyone interprets things in their own way......... disagreements are wonderful as long as they're friendly! :-D

I love the dog in this story. He's a pet, he's loyal, and he knows who feeds him, but the man is a controlling master; he isn't kind, and he controls the dog by instilling fear. It isn't a love relationship between man and his faithful companion. The dog is smarter than his master. He doesn't want to be on the journey, but he follows along anyway. When you read the text you can see that the dog is relying on basic instinct. He treads more carefully, seeks warmth, waits for food. He is loyal in that there are times I think the dog would like to say, "I'm out of here.......... you're crazy!" The dog isn't afraid of the weather, but unlike the man he knows that he'll have to escape it in order to survive. The dog is also better able to read the man's intentions than the man gives him credit for. The man would like to kill him and sleep in the warmth of his body, but dogs aren't stupid and are much better at sensing danger than the average human. Alas, that's why so many people rely on "watch" dogs.

Hope that helps! Kaie

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