What does the main character of "To Build a Fire" think and feel? Are the character's behaviors similar or different?

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jeff-hauge's profile pic

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

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There is a great disconnect between his feelings and thoughts. While he is enduring the cold, the wind and the shrinking capacity to feel his own limbs, he is unable to think beyond the repeated recognition that, "it certainly is cold." While the dog, his foil relies upon his instincts to interpret the dangerous situation, the man believes that merely keeping his head will save him. He is relying on an arrogant sense that he can think his way through this cold and indifferent environment.

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The main character's feelings are revealed through the third-person narrator.  Through the narrator's description of the main character's actions, etc., the reader learns about his feelings.  The main character was not well prepared for his journey; he did not dress warmly enough, he did not pack appropriate supplies in case something happened, and he did not pack enough food to eat.  These were some of his biggest mistakes.  Others included building a fire underneath a snow-covered tree and taking his gloves off, for example.  Perhaps his biggest mistake was not letting the dog's instincts lead them both back to camp.  The man insisted the dog obey him despite the dog showing signs of not wanting to do so.  Had he simply followed the dog, he would've been able to save his own life because the dog knew where camp was.  Instead, he ends up dead because of his own ignorance.  In the beginning, he was very calm and was not worried about not making it back to camp.  He was overconfident in his ability to make it there.  As time passes and he realizes he is lost, his feelings change to ones of worry and fret.  By the end, he is in full panic mode and in a last ditch effort, attempts to grab the dog to kill it in order to try to gut it and warm his hands.  When he fails to do this and the dog escapes his grasp, he realizes that he is going to die; his mind has begun to leave him and he gets very sleep and warm, which is a sign of dangerously bad hypothermia. 

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