To Build a Fire by Jack London

To Build a Fire book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How does Jack London's  "To Build a Fire" illustrate the elements of naturalistic literature?

Expert Answers info

Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,282 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In the literary school known as naturalism, nature is a merciless force that defeats the human will at every turn. Instead of being glorified, as nature was in the Romantic movement, nature is harsh and inimical in literary naturalism. 

In "To Build a Fire," nature is a cruel force. There is no sun shining in the Yukon where the story takes place, and there is nothing to temper the ice and cold of the landscape. When the nameless man who is at the center of the story builds a fire, nature defeats him when a load of snow from the spruce tree above lands on the fire and extinguishes it. He then drops the rest of his matches in the snow, extinguishing his chance to survive. The dog who is accompanying the man merely trots off after the man has frozen to death, showing that the man's death did not affect him in the slightest. In this tale, nature is an unpitying force that defeats humans. 

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

carol-davis eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2004

write1,291 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Jack London often employed a naturalistic approach in his writing. “To Build a Fire” falls into...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 624 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial