Since its first publication in 1908, Jack London’s short story ‘‘To Build a Fire’’ has been wellreceived. Today, it is regarded as a classic of American literature. In his literary biography, Jack London: The Man, The Writer, the Rebel (1976), Robert Barltrop asserts that ‘‘To Build a Fire’’ is one of a group of ‘‘outstanding stories’’ which distinguish London ‘‘as one of the masters of that form.’’ Similarly, James Lundquist (Jack London: Adventures, Ideas, and Fiction, 1987) describes the story as ‘‘starkly elegant, a masterpiece of quiet tone and subdued color . . .’’ and points out that it is the most frequently anthologized of all of London’s works. Earle Labor and Jeanne Campbell Reesman (Jack London, 1994) likewise praise ‘‘To Build a Fire’’ as a ‘‘masterpiece,’’ while in Jack London: An American Myth (1981), John Perry credits the story with being ‘‘fine-textured.’’
Indeed, stories like ‘‘To Build a Fire’’ helped establish Jack London’s reputation as a gifted author, inspiring some critics who were London’s contemporaries to applaud him as the ‘‘successor to Poe’’ and the ‘‘equal of Kipling’’ (see Charles Child Walcutt’s discussion of early criticism in his Jack London, 1966). However, not all of the Klondike stories were considered at the time to be of the same high quality as ‘‘To Build a Fire.’’ London...
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