Symbolism In Jack London's To Build A Fire

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Gemma Kennett
Mrs. Cole
English I – Period 3
16 November 2015
“To Build a Fire”
A Literary Analysis of the Short Story by Jack London In Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” symbolism boils very close to the surface throughout the story, just under the ice. It is very clear throughout the story that snow means death, but it is more unclear what it's opposite brings to the table. Fire represents what the man is yearning for throughout the story: life. To live is to survive, and that is the main purpose of Jack London’s short story. The warmth symbolizes this struggle of survival, and the flame itself symbolizes the kindling of life.
In Jack London’s story, the presence of fire represents life, and the absence of it saying life is running out. When the man's fire gets blotted out by falling snow, he feels "as though he [had] just heard his own sentence of death" (24). A human needs fire in the harsh
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While the dog "yearn[s] back toward the fire," the man foolishly decides to keep moving, as he is "ignorant of cold, of real cold, of cold one hundred and seven degrees below freezing point" (16). The fire symbolizes a comfort the man hopes to find when he makes it to "the boys" at camp, where "a fire [will] be going, and a hot supper [will] be ready" (4). The dog also yearns for this comfort, but does not think it is necessary to travel to the camp to get it. When the man’s second fire is put out by a shelf of snow from a spruce tree, he has a deep understanding that he is in extreme danger. His failure to build a new fire is completely dependent on the stiffening of his fingers: "When he touched a twig, he had to look and see whether or not he had hold of it. The wires were pretty well down between him and his finger ends" (21). The harsh weather had shut down a vital part of the man's body, much like a winter storm can knock down a telephone pole and leave a part of a town in
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