How does McCandless from Into the Wild mimic Jack London's protagonist in "To Build a Fire?"

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a sense, McCandless shared antithetical views to London's dark naturalist themes. McCandless sought adventure in Alaska, but he also thought that he could prepare himself to beat the elements.  London, on the other hand, after enduring a severe "beating" by the Yukon's extreme environment focuses on man's inability to conquer nature or animals' instinct.

However, readers of both works cannot help but see the similarity between McCandless's lonely, harsh fate and "To Build a Fire's" protagonist's isolated death in the cold, unforgiving Yukon. Both men think that they will be different from others who have gone before them into the demanding elements of the north and met cruel deaths.  Chris does not listen to all those who worry about him and advise him not to go alone to Alaska.  Likewise, the newcomer ignores the oldtimer's advice about not traveling alone when the temperatures drop so low. In the end, both men die because nature defeats them--Chris is defeated by the cold and starvation, and the newcomer dies from hypothermia.  Both are alone in the end.

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To Build a Fire

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