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What key advice did the old-timer from Sulfur creek give the man in "To Build a Fire"?

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jbaby | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 28, 2008 at 2:42 AM via web

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What key advice did the old-timer from Sulfur creek give the man in "To Build a Fire"?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 14, 2008 at 1:00 AM (Answer #1)

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The old-timer from Sulphur Creek had warned the man of the dangers of going into the frigid Yukon Territory in the winter.  He had tried to emphasize "how cold it sometimes got in the country", and outlined some basic survival skills the man would have to know in order to survive under those extreme conditions.  The man "had laughed at (the old-timer) at the time", and, thinking he could handle it, had set off into the Alaskan wilderness in the winter alone.

Two especially critical pieces of advice the old-timer had given the man were the absolute necessity of being able to build a fire immediately should his feet get wet, and the wisdom of taking with him a companion.  About the fire, the old-timer had warned, "...there must be no failure.  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...the circulation of wet and freezing feet cannot be restored by running when it is seventy-five below".  The man remembers and appreciates the advice the old-timer gave him when he is in trouble, but had not taken it seriously enough to make sure he thoroughly learned how to make a fire under dire conditions before he set out.

When he cannot make a viable fire, the man regrets not having listened to the other element of the old-timer's advice - "If he had only had a trail-mate he would have been in no danger.  The trail-mate could have build the fire".

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 28, 2008 at 3:02 AM (Answer #1)

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The old timer from Sulfur Creek warned him not to travel outside alone when the temperature is below a certain point. The man's arrogance takes over and he feels the advice is "womanish". His pride goes to far as he bets his survival on his ability to survive the vicious cold. His mistake was first in believing himself superior to power of a cold and indifferent universe. It is only when he faces certain death that he relents. He then changes his perception of the old timer.

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