illustration fo a man in winter clothes lying on the snow under a tree with a dog standing near him

To Build a Fire

by Jack London

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In "To Build a Fire," how does the dog’s point of view about the setting differ from the man’s? Why? Support your conclusions with textual evidence.

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In the short story "To Build a Fire" by Jack London, a man accompanied by a large husky dog takes a seldom-used trail through the Yukon while the temperature is 75 degrees below zero and dropping. The man is confident that he can reach a camp at Henderson Creek where men who share a claim with him are waiting. Although the man is overconfident, the dog is instinctually wary about going out in such cold weather.

The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold. It knew that it was no time for traveling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man's judgment.

As the man walks, he realizes that it is extremely cold, but he continues along his way.

Once in awhile the thought reiterated itself that it was very cold and that he had never experienced such cold.

When the man suspects hidden pools in the ice, he urges the dog to go on ahead to test it, but the dog is reluctant. It senses the danger. The dog does break through and has to bite the ice out of its paws. After stopping and building a fire for lunch, the man decides to continue on his way, but the dog wants to stay safely by the fire.

This man did not know cold. Possibly all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real cold, of cold one hundred and seven degrees below freezing-point. But the dog knew; all its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge. And it knew that it was not good to walk abroad in such fearful cold.

We can see, then, that the man's point of view is one of overconfidence in his abilities, while the dog's point of view is one of instinctual respect for the dangers of the cold wilderness and apprehension about traveling through the frozen landscape.

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