ISC Echoes to build a fire question and answer How Apt the title ‘To build a Fire ‘


To Build a Fire : by Jack London

Question : Do you agree with the title of Jack London’s short story ‘ To Build a Fire’? Give reasons to justify your choice.

Answer : The title of the story ‘To Build a Fire’ is appropriate as it was only a roaring fire that could have saved the man from the trembling cold. The story is set in the wilderness of the frozen Yukon river, in Klondike region , during the harsh winter months when “there was no sun nor hint of sun”  in the sky. 

       In this type of region the life and death of a man depends on his ability to build a Fire. The story is structured around building of fires. The first is for convenience and the last is essential for survival.

     The man was a newcomer in the land a “chechaquo” although he was    “quick and alert in the things of life , but only in the things, and not in the significance.”  He had knowledge but “he was without imagination” .

     He knew it was cold but he could not imagine how much cold he could bear. This ” did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature.” 
  He was indifferent to the fact that man can only live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold. 

    Travelling alone at temperature of seventy- five degrees below zero, the man could have survived only by building a fire. Not only the man, but also the dog was aware of the importance of fire in Klondike’s harsh weather conditions . The dog seemed to ” question eagerly every unwonted movement of the man as if expecting him to go into camp or to seek shelter somewhere and build a fire, the dog had learned fire and  it wanted fire.” 

      At half past twelve the man stopped to eat his lunch , soon he realized that his feet went numb almost as soon as he sat still, his nose and cheeks were already frozen , a fact that finally began to frighten him. It was then that he build the fire for the first time and for that moment, the ” cold of space was outwitted”. The man after eating lunch continued his journey. This disappointed the dog as if longed to remain near the fire. 

    Soon after resuming the trek, the man fell into an icy spring. This angered him as he would have to build a fire to dry himself and all this would delay him by an hour. He knew it was imperative and he worked methodically. He collected dry leaves, branches, twigs, fire woods, sticks and with the help of a match he got the flame successfully. The man ” worked slowly and carefully” because he was aware of his danger and there must be no failure. He knew ” when it is seventy five below zero, a man must not fail in his first attempt to build a fire that is if his feet are wet.” 

      He build a fire ” snapping and cracking and promising life with every dancing flame”. But it was momentary the “treacherous tree” under which he had built the fire , blotted out the fire. 

    ” The man was shocked . It was as though he had just heard his own sentence of death.” 

     His confidence, that he would survive the harsh Klondike’s winter, did not serve him.

    His attempt to build a third fire failed. He panicked. He realised the importance of a trail mate who would have built a fire for him under such circumstances. It was in desperate attempt to build the fire for the third time that he burned his flesh and the blazing matches fell into the snow.

     Falling to build fire again he ran about frantically to restore some warmth. But soon he realised it’s ineffectiveness and resigned to its fate.

     Unable to build a third fire in the brutal cold, the man slipped into frozen sleep and died.

   Thus building a fire was important for his survival and he perished when he failed to do so. 

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