Homework Help

What is naturalism, and how does Jack Londons' "To Build a Fire" represent it?

user profile pic

gmpitts | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 9, 2010 at 12:28 AM via web

dislike -1 like

What is naturalism, and how does Jack Londons' "To Build a Fire" represent it?

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 9, 2010 at 12:50 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Jack London is a poster boy for naturalism, and his short story, "To Build a Fire," is a good example of why.

Naturalism is an extreme form of realism, with a heightened attention to nature and its effects on humans.  Humans are animals like any other when pitted against the forces of nature.  Humans are subject to the forces of nature.

The main character in "To Build a Fire" is pitted against nature and he is vulnerable to it the same as any other creature:  disrespect it or make a mistake, and you will suffer the consequences.  In fact, in the climate of the story, man is inferior to other animals.  The character takes the environment too lightly and does not prepare properly, and there are consequences for this.

user profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 9, 2010 at 1:51 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

Due to the man vs. nature theme presented in "To Build A Fire," yes, it is an example of naturalism. While the story itself might not be as flowery as the naturalism exhibited by Emerson or Thoreau, it is naturalism nonetheless, as man is subjected to the forces of nature around him; in this case, extreme cold. Jack London, along with being a socialist, is considered one of the prime examples of naturalist literature writers.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes