To Build A Fire As A Representation Of Authors Attitude To Klondike Gold Rush

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In Klondike Gold Rush, Jack London realized the powerful nature after his own experience there, that period of time influenced his writing deeply. Jack London was born in San Francisco, California, on 12 January 1876, and died in Glen Ellen, California, on 22 November 1916. He was an explorer, gold prospector, seaman, rancher, darwinian and socialist, experiencing straight up rise in popularity as a novel writer, short stories, essays. (Rhodes) In the story “To Build a Fire”. Jack London uses naturalism to prove that humans are tiny compared with the force of nature. Thus, he uses a lot of literary devices in ‘Build a Fire,’ such as imagery, descriptive writing style, repetition, etc.

Jack London’s literary works are affected by the Klondike Gold Rush and the realism at that period. In London’s writing the event of Klondike Gold Rush is reflected in his work, for the purpose of finding gold, countless people went to California including London. Therefore settings of some of London’s famous novels are tale place in extremely freezing weather, just as the weather in Klondike Gold Rush. “Instead, details of landscape and climate, local terminology concerning sledge-dogs and gold-panning methods, the cabin and campfire encounters where stories are told, and the unfamiliar, exotic setting convince the reader of London’s experiential involvement in his tales.” (Teorey) The other event that shaped London’s work is realism at that period, at that time people began to lose interest in romanticism writing after the civil war, and they preferred realism writing and focus more interests on it. “For London the living and writing became almost one, but it may be said that the writing really came first in the sense that it defined and directed the living.”(Teorey) Therefore, many of London’s literary works reveal his life experience. To conclude, The Klondike Gold Rush and realism influence the author’s work profoundly. Those two reasons is the major cause that shaped London’s writing.

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Jack London is famous for his descriptive writing style and story settings in northland in his writing. Descriptive writing is a writing style that focuses on simple and objective scenes, and there would be no bias in the story. “His style was unique for its era – grim, powerful, unsentimental.” (Widdecomre) London is also known for its northland settings in his stories, this kind of setting in London’s novels are especially popular in the world. “In many of London’s works such as “ Call Of Wild”, “The white silence”, those settings are both in extremely freezing area. And his novels has been translated to nearly 80 languages.”(Widdcomre) In conclusion, London’s application of descriptive language and northland settings in his stories make his story distinctive.

The main character in the story shifts from believing in himself to regret through the progression of the whole story. At the beginning of the story, the main character believes his judgement is correct, and he doesn’t believe the cold weather could cause trouble for him while he is travelling outside. “As he is an inexperienced chechaquo (or newcomer) to the Northland, he is not worried about the cold. He is mostly concerned with travelling a little-known path that he believes is a shortcut to his camp, where his companions await.” (Rhodes)As the time goes on, he feel the freezing of the weather, however he is stubborn and still believe this weather doesn’t affect him“As it grows colder and his unprotected cheekbones start to freeze, he scorns the use of a nose-strap as something for weaker men.”(Rhodes) He learns just before his death that the old man, who advises him not to go out under the freezing weather, is right.“He remembers the old-timer from Sulphur Creek (an experienced prospector, or sourdough) who had warned him that no man should travel in the Klondike alone when the temperature is so many degrees below zero.”(Rhodes) At the end of the story, the main character murmurs to the old man of Sulphur Creek: “You were right, old fellow. You were right.”(London 16) By showing the behaviour of the main character, London demonstrates changes of the main character changes through the whole story.

Jack London emphasized the central themes and ideas by using repetition and imagery. In “To Build a Fire”, “Repetition establishes a compelling pattern in London’s Arctic for reasons that are neither simple nor straightforward. Most obviously, however, its effect is entropic, reducing the man to the purely physical by depriving him initially of a will, then of desires, and at last of life itself.” (Mitchell 5) By using repetition, London emphasizes the fact that the main character would approach death very soon. Imagery is another literary technique London applies in “To Build a Fire” in order to emphasize his ideas of the story. By applying imagery in the story, London gives a vivid image to readers while they are reading the story, demonstrating the extremely freezing weather. “The frozen moisture of its breathing had settled on its fur in a fine powder of frost, and especially were its jowl, muzzle, and eyelashes whitened by its crystal Ed breath.”(London) Since the extremely freezing weather is related to the death of the main character, the application of imagery would enhance the events and ideas in the story. In conclusion, by using repetition and imagery, London emphasizes the events and ideas in the story. Specifically, the application of repetition suggests death is approaching the man, and the application of imagery shows the freezing weather, suggesting the close relationship between death of the man the extremely freezing weather.

“To Build a Fire” is a good representation of Jack London’s own experience, ideas and body of his work. Firstly, the background of the story is based on London’s experience in the Klondike Gold Rush. Secondly, the story is also a good representation of London’s idea. As a naturalist, London believes that human beings could not fight against nature, and nature is also operating the law. The death of the main character at the end of the story could also support this point. Thirdly, London uses a lot of descriptive languages as well as his northland-setting in the story, which could show that this story is a good representation of London’s body of work.  


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