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What is a symbol in the story "To Build a Fire"?

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schoolgirl111 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 6, 2010 at 12:23 PM via web

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What is a symbol in the story "To Build a Fire"?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 14, 2011 at 2:44 AM (Answer #1)

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Fire is a repeating symbol in Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire." Fire, and the successful building of a fire, serves many purposes. Above all, it is a life-sustaining force in the deadly cold climate of the Yukon. It is used for warmth to preserve the human body, since a continuous campfire is necessary for sleeping; otherwise, a man would freeze in the extreme, sub-zero temperatures. Fire is used to cook food, further sustenance for man. It is used for protection against wild animals. But fire's most important use in the story comes as a heat source to thaw frozen clothing. The Chechaquo, the main character in the story, recognizes this importance, and he uses fire for this purpose. In the end, fire also causes the man's demise, melting the snow in the tree and sending it to the earth, where the fire is extinguished. With the death of the fire comes the death of the man.

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anjaneya | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 17, 2011 at 4:47 PM (Answer #2)

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Fire is a repeating symbol in Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire." Fire, and the successful building of a fire, serves many purposes. Above all, it is a life-sustaining force in the deadly cold climate of the Yukon. It is used for warmth to preserve the human body, since a continuous campfire is necessary for sleeping; otherwise, a man would freeze in the extreme, sub-zero temperatures. Fire is used to cook food, further sustenance for man. It is used for protection against wild animals. But fire's most important use in the story comes as a heat source to thaw frozen clothing. The Chechaquo, the main character in the story, recognizes this importance, and he uses fire for this purpose. In the end, fire also causes the man's demise, melting the snow in the tree and sending it to the earth, where the fire is extinguished. With the death of the fire comes the death of the man.

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rajeethv | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 6, 2010 at 1:08 PM (Answer #3)

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This story is about a man's belief in himself, self-confidence and even arrogance, to such an extent that he doesn't recognize the power of nature around him. London's story is more like a "Man against Nature" story. It symbolises man's struggle against nature.

London's "To Build a Fire" casts a clear image that in the ever long-lasting battle between man and nature, nature is not a force that should be reckoned with.

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karmanet | Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 6, 2010 at 2:40 PM (Answer #4)

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This story is about the folly of arrogance. When we think we know everything we do not pay attention to others who do. In this case it cost the main character his life, because he did not trust the dog. First the protagonist ignored the advice of the old timer about making the trip at that time of year. Then he did not trust the insticts of the dog. (Dogs are worth their weight in gold in Alaska in the wilderness.) When I lived in Alaska there were a few guys like this one who showed up every year. However, there are more orads now, so they usually survive.

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