Monday, February 21, 2011

Literary Analysis Of To Build A Fire

As generations pass and the quest for unlimited knowledge is reduced to a couple clicks on your favorite search engine, many of the youth today take what their elders say for granted and simply block it out with their iPod headphones, as though a slap of ignorance to the faces of the hoary. But what these feeble minded juveniles did not know is that what was overcome with sounds Ke$ha and Katy Perry, were the key ingredients to the perfect lifestyle. Through the writings of Jack London, we learn that we should cherish the past generations, for what they have learned is as valuable as life itself. 

“To Build a Fire” by Jack London is a short story about a man traveling along the Yukon River in the bitter, winter weather.  While warned against traveling alone in the frigid cold, he ventures out to meet his companions at a remote camp many miles away, with only a stray dog by his side. From the beginning, the reader understands that the man is undertaking a task where most would wait for more suitable conditions. The most important remark for this man is from The Old-timer from Sulpher Creek, who warned him about the dangers of the Yukon. His trip begins well enough, yet soon becomes disastrous when he breaks through the ice and “wets himself up to the waist.” He is more angry than worried as he begins to build a fire to dry his wet boots and socks.  His arrogance shows when he thinks to himself about how The Old-timer from Sulpher Creek "was rather womanish.”  With this arrogant insult against the elderly and the wisdom that they conceal, many may see that this gap between generations is may find that it connects with Ernest Hemingway’s infamous short story “A Clear Well Lighted Place,” where we find another epic fight between generations. As the story goes on the main character faces the icy bath of cold water again and has to make a fire once more. Due to a grave mistake on his part of building the fire under a tree branch overburdened with fresh snow, his fire is doused out when the heat collapses the branch.  Many may think that this may be a form of Karma towards our protagonist due to his rude comment about the Old-timer from Sulpher Creek.  His extremities are already numb from the cold and he lacks the dexterity to light another fire so begins to run in an effort to get to his companions camp as well as increase his circulation enough to warm up.  He fails in both attempts and soon collapses from exhaustion.  While lying in the snow, defeated and dying, he comes to understand that the old-timer was right.  “You were right, old hoss; you were right,” he says; further realizing how important the old-timer’s advice was.

With the ending of this tragic tail, one may consider this as a forewarning towards the youth of America; a dramatization of the dangers of ignoring the guidance of the elderly not only in nature, but also in the twenty-first century. In hopes that this work of fiction is not created in reality, for those you who have the time to change your moronic, rebellious ways, stop as soon as possible to avoid the same fortune as Jack London’s protagonist.

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