To Build a Fire Questions and Answers
by Jack London

To Build a Fire book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How does "To Build a Fire" by Jack London reflect the philosophy of Transcendentalism?

Expert Answers info

Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,682 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

Normally I haven't thought of Jack London's writings as expressing any form of the Emerson-Thoreau transcendentalist philosophy. London is usually associated with socialism (as in his dystopian novel The Iron Heel) or, perhaps paradoxically, the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer (which his protagonist vehemently defends in Martin Eden). But "To Build a Fire" and other Klondike stories relate to the "self-reliance" aspect of the New England writers' philosophy, perhaps in contradictory ways—both positively and negatively.

The man in this story is self-reliant to an extreme and irrational degree. He's been told by the "old timers" that one should not travel alone in the Northland, but he does so anyway, even while contemplating (apparently without worry) the advice he's been given. We're told that he's intelligent in observing things but not in the "significances" of them. He recognizes the severity of the conditions he encounters (with his spit freezing in the frigid air before it hits...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1,080 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write7,234 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Asher Wismer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write2,867 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History


check Approved by eNotes Editorial