To Build a Fire by Jack London

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Why is it significant that the main character has no name in "To Build a Fire"?

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anthonda49 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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During the Alaskan Gold Rush thousands of mostly nameless men sought their fortune in a harsh environment and lost. This character is but one of many who died alone and probably undiscovered. By the time his body might be found, there would be no way to identify who he was. As the man got colder, his first sign of hypothermia would be loss of reasoning. He sat down to eat on a frozen surface. That would rob him of body heat. He forced the dog to go where the dog knew it was not safe. He sought shelter under the boughs of a tree holding snow. As his fire raised the temperature, the snow collapsed putting out the fire and his hope of survival. To go out alone in the winter wilderness is a big mistake; to go without proper preparation is fatal. The dog is a part of nature, and as such, its instincts protect it. Man has no instincts and mistakenly thinks his intelligence makes him superior. Another fatal error was not carrying flint and steel for fire-making. Matches can get wet and be useless, but flint and steel, though harder to use, are usually far superior.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I assume that Jack London deliberately made the main character of "To Build a Fire " anonymous to show just how insignificant the man was in the vast, brutal world of the Yukon. Since the man was travelling alone--and against the knowledgeable advice of others--there was little need to give him a name. It also allows the narration a bit of emotional distance from the man, for without a name, the reader is less susceptible to feel sympathy for his predicament. The other characters mentioned were also given no specific names--probably for the same reasons mentioned above. Remaining nameless also made his death seem all the more...

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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cuongpmu59 | Student

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