The short story "To Build a Fire" has as its main theme Man vs. Nature. In this story, the juxtaposition of the man with the dog points to the strength of animal instinct against the rationality of man. So, the absence of a name for the character extends him from the particular to the general--Jack London's intent in this naturalistic story in which a human being is subject to natural forces beyond his control.
Against the advice of the "old-timer," the man, whose "trouble...was that he was without imagination," ventures out on a nine-hour trek across the Klondike. With him trots a dog,
a big native husky, the proper wolf dog, gray-coated and without any visible or teperamental difference from its brother, the wild wolf....Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man's judgment.
Clearly, the natural forces, ones that the man ignores, win out against the human who ignores an intuitive sense that he may have.
As a naturalist, Jack London was among a group of writers who went beyond realism in an attempt to portray life exactly as it is. Naturalists were infuenced by Charles Darwin's theories of natural selection and suvival of the fittest which held that huan behavior is determined by heredity and environment. Relying on new theories in sociology and psychology, the naturalists dissected human behavior with detachment and objectivity, like scientists dissecting laboratory specimens. "To Build a Fire" is the recording of such an "experiment." And, as such, there is no need to give the man a name, since he represents any man who behaves as he did, any man who does not understand that fur and instinct are necessary for survival in the Klondike in the winter.