Introducing the man, London describes as being ''quick and alert'," but ''without imagination." How does this lack of imagination mislead him?Jack London's "To Build a Fire"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In "To Build a Fire" since this is the man's first trip to the Yukon and he is not acquainted with the extreme cold, and since he lacks "the imagination,"

He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances.

The man misses the significances of the words of the old man from Sulphur Creek who tells him that no one should go out into the severe cold alone; he does not ponder life and death.  In contrast to the man, the husky has an instinct that tells it "a truer tale than was told to the man by the man's judgment."

As a result of his "lack of imagination," the one thought that continues to run through his head is "that it was very cold."  His judgment of the cold, however, is inaccurate by about twenty degrees.  When he stops for lunch, he is amazed at the speed at which his hands freeze.  Still, he holds on by building a fire.  However, when he steps into a hidden spring, the man becomes wet and must build another fire.  Yet lacking "imagination," he does not consider that a fire beneath a snow-covered fir tree will melt the snow, causing it to fall onto the fire.  This omission of thought effects a tragic result as the man is unable to relight another fire because of his frozen fingers.  Having no intimacy with the dog, the animal does not cover him with its body as some dogs have done their masters.  Impassively, it watches the man until it smells death.  Then, "it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food providers and fire providers.  Stronger in dealing with Nature because of its instincts, the dog survives while the man, less physically adapted and mentally weaker for his "lack of imagination" dies in the impersonal cold.

A man said to the universe:/"Sir, I exist!"/"However," replied the universe,/"The fact has not created in me/A sense of obligation."      -Stephen Crane

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