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What is the naturalist symbolism in "To Build a Fire"?

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eldinosaurio | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:21 AM via web

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What is the naturalist symbolism in "To Build a Fire"?

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:32 AM (Answer #1)

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The movement of Naturalism came about in conjunction with Darwin's theory concerning evolution and natural selection.  Naturalism asserts that humans,  instead of being above other animals in the heirarchy of the world, are just another ring the chain of life.  We are controlled not as much by our intellect, but by our genetics and by natural laws which have governed our development, just like other animals.  This is symbolized in the story with the ultimate failure of the narrator.  He tries to use his intellect in the story to "keep his head", but everytime  he does, he ignores his instinct.  He does not do enough to keep warm, etc.  As a result, he fails.  If he listened to his natural instincts, he could have survived.

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brendawm | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted November 3, 2007 at 11:37 AM (Answer #2)

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Although not based on formal research, to me, the symbolism in "To Build a Fire" exists in the form of the man as  symbolic of humans in general in their attitudes of superiority in respect to most, if not all things.  For example, the man thinks or believes that he has nothing to fear from the weather and that his intelligence makes him far superior to it, when in reality nature is the one thing on earth that man can never and will never be able to change, control, or manipulate.  

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

Posted September 17, 2011 at 6:01 PM (Answer #3)

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The movement of Naturalism came about in conjunction with Darwin's theory concerning evolution and natural selection.  Naturalism asserts that humans,  instead of being above other animals in the heirarchy of the world, are just another ring the chain of life.  We are controlled not as much by our intellect, but by our genetics and by natural laws which have governed our development, just like other animals.  This is symbolized in the story with the ultimate failure of the narrator.  He tries to use his intellect in the story to "keep his head", but everytime  he does, he ignores his instinct.  He does not do enough to keep warm, etc.  As a result, he fails.  If he listened to his natural instincts, he could have survived.

Although not based on formal research, to me, the symbolism in "To Build a Fire" exists in the form of the man as  symbolic of humans in general in their attitudes of superiority in respect to most, if not all things.  For example, the man thinks or believes that he has nothing to fear from the weather and that his intelligence makes him far superior to it, when in reality nature is the one thing on earth that man can never and will never be able to change, control, or manipulate.

 

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