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Similarities Between To Build A Fire and Into The Wild

Updated on October 4, 2016

Into the Wild vs. “To Build a Fire”

In the book Into the Wild by John Krakauer, and the short story “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, both main characters experience similar circumstances that lead to their deaths. The differences between both of the stories are the main characters’ motives, the physical aspects of the main characters, and their environments.

In the book Into the Wild, the main character, Chris McCandless, is a man obsessed with the idea of leaving the normal life of civilization to venture to Alaska. He also wants to get away from his mother and father, whom he has been holding grudges against in the past. Before McCandless starts his trek to Alaska, he gives away his money to charity, destroys his car, and burns the rest of his money, so that he will have a complete ascetic experience. On the way to Alaska, McCandless buys a rifle, uses an old map, and carries a few pounds of rice with him and a limited knowledge about the dangers the state’s environment may bring. Unlike McCandless, the main character in “To Build a Fire” is not running away from society.

In the short story “To Build a Fire,” the main character ventures out in the wilderness simply for the sake of the challenges the wilderness has to offer. In a climate of very low temperature, with his dog to accompany him, he travels across a vast expanse of the wild filled with potentially deadly terrains. He brings with him a biscuit to eat as a reward for reaching his destination. Since the man does not bring with him something to keep his nose warm he suffers from frostbite throughout his adventure. The consequence of his mistake depicts the necessity to be well prepared for extreme weather conditions.

Into The Wild Trailer

The similarities of the plots of both of the stories were great due to the fact that the characters were both warned that they are going into a harsh environment with an insufficient amount of food and equipment--including the correct type of clothing--to make surviving possible. Chris McCandless strayed off onto a less traveled trail that branched off the main trail, and then he could not find his way back to the main trail giving him no choice but to create his own path to his destination. A very similar situation occurs to the main character in “To Build a Fire,” except the main character purposely ventures off the main trail so that he can switch his direction to the east, where he will find civilization. In the book Into the Wild, McCandless finds his own campground he plans to use as his main place to settle. The campground consists of a broken down bus that has been there for years. Similar to the short story “To Build a Fire,” the main character finds a site where he can make a camp for himself. The main characters of both of the stories fell very confident that they will make it back to civilization, not knowing the obstacles they are about to approach. McCandless does not have the capability to make it across a violent flooding river, and the main character in “To Build a Fire” gets water all over his feet in an extremely cold climate which makes it essential for him to stop his trek in order to build a fire that can save his life.

Also in the story Into the Wild, Chris camps in the bus, gets sick and slowly dies with no regrets of his journey. In the short story “To Build a Fire,” the main character stays under the tree, gets freezing cold and also slowly dies with a feeling of no regrets. The two main characters were enticed by the harsh climates and struggles of the wilderness. They were warned by a local that it is unsafe to venture out into the wilderness on their own, and that they did not bring enough supplies to sustain themselves during their journeys. They were both so eager to go off into the wild that they did not care enough to prepare themselves more prepared to endure the harshness of the wild. They enjoy being uncomfortable and do not think about the possibility of death. They both were on a main trail and changed their direction onto a less traveled trail. They both lay down and died slowly of natural causes.

The main characters of both of the readings Into the Wild and “Building a Fire” are well motivated individuals who love to travel in extreme adventures. Both of the main characters go on their adventures for slightly different reason, but make the same mistake by not taking the advice from the locals.

Works Cited

Krakauer, John. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor Books, 1996. Print.

London, Jack. “To Build a Fire.” American Literature. n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.


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    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      3 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Interesting parallels between the two stories, davidas. Some people die for taking the risk of venturing out in the fronteir world for what they love, but it seems the characters of the stories you're writing about were too impulsive and rash. They didn't embark out on their own to die. They didn't adequately protect themselves with enough proper supplies and clothing.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      These two accounts are certainly ripe for comparison. Great analysis.

    • David Morrison profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Far, Far Away

      I'm glad that you enjoyed my hub, and thanks for your observing input. I will wright some more hubs like this, so stay tuned.

    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      8 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Enjoyed reading your arctic hub. Another important distinction is that McCandless was a real person from Virginia and London's personage is fictional.


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