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I have to agree with other editors in feeling that the man is to a large extent responsible for his own fate. It was his arrogance and his inability or ignorance of his own vulnerability in the face of nature that led to his death as he ignored advice and instincts and pressed on to his own doom. The dog acts as a foil to the man. He is a creature that is in tune with nature and with his own instincts, and thus lives.
The "snow-dogs" are an amazing breed. Having read about their being able to find their way in terrible blizzards, and having owned one, I knew the dog would survive. A wilder dog than other breeds, his instinct helps him survive. The man, on the other hand, has rejected any sixth sense. When the experienced old-timer from Sulfur Creek urges him not to set out, he does not heed his advice. So, he invites his fate because, as London writes, "he lacked imagination."
The story is full of hints and foreshadowing that tell us there will be a horrible event. I find the man rather full of himself, but I do have a soft spot for him when he is concerned about the dog's well-being. Dogs, unlike other domestic animals, will stay by their owners once the owner has fallen in some way to death--catastrophic or not. It doesn't look good for the dog until he just gets up and walks toward the camp that he was trying to lead the stubborn man to in the first place.
The fate of the dog turns into a greater concern as the man struggles to accept his fate. Even as he realizes that death is his fate, the man imagines being able to tell this story to people he knows later. His sense of self is warped and mistakenly indomitable. I find it hard to have compassion for the man that did not respect his surroundings and constantly overestimated his abilities in a harsh world.
I feel sorry for the man, but from the very beginning, we're led to expect that something terrible is going to happen to him. The story is like an object lesson of what not to do if you have to walk through the woods in below zero temperatures!
I think it was sad that the man had to die; however, this story teaches us a very valuable lesson about animal instincts and how animals sometimes are smarter than humans. If the man had simply not tried to dominate the dog and have the dog follow him, he probably would have survived. He should have simply let the dog lead (remember at the end of the story that the dog simply walks off towards camp once the man is dead).
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