Comparing Death In Chekhov's Gusev And To Build A Fire

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In both Chekhov’s “Gusev” and London’s “To Build a Fire,” the main characters’ opinions about death are radically characterized by the setting. First, the presence, or lack, of characters surrounding the protagonists of “Gusev” and “To Build a Fire,” greatly shape the attitudes of who these men seek to be in death. In “Gusev,” the protagonist Gusev inhabits a hospital on a Russian steamer ship surrounded by men who are dying. Here he comes into contact with Pavel Ivanitch, a man with a penchant for negatively philosophizing every trivial word Gusev says. Upon hearing about the weather, he asks, “is the wind a beast that it can break loose from its chain” (Chekhov). Ivanitch is the character who shapes Gusev’s opinions and eventual forfeit to…show more content…
If Pavel Ivanitch represents man’s need for philosophical reminiscing before death, the lack of human companion in “To Build a Fire” represents that a human’s lack of respect for necessary human companionship in time of need will lead to their demise. Under impression of the cold, the protagonist did not “meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general” (London). The protagonist does not listen to the dog’s want for fire, and instead decides to prematurely celebrate his good pace even though he had never experienced a cold so severe. His mind remains empty except for the traps he must evade to survive. The dog knows the cold better than the protagonist, but he is aware of his master’s whip and “made no effort to communicate its apprehension to the man” (London). After nearly freezing to death, the protagonist has a brief vision of killing his dog and using its body for warmth, showing that he has failed to use the advice of both men on the trail and of the dog, and can finally only use them for the most archaic and animalist benefit of his
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