For the story "To Build a Fire," I need to write an informative essay that includes cultural differences from the story between the protagonist and the real world.

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In his short story "To Build a Fire," Jack London paints significant differences between the culture understood by the nameless man hiking the trail, who is probably from the United States, and the culture of the trail itself. The man's lack of understanding of these cultural differences cost him his life.

One culture clash can be seen in the very first paragraph in which the narrator comments on the sun. He notes that it was a clear day, yet no sun was present, making the day dark and gloomy:

There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun.

The reason why no sun is present, even on a cloudless day, is because the Yukon is in part of the Arctic Circle. On June 21st, the day of the summer solstice, the sun does not set at all for 24 hours. During the fall, the sun sinks lower on the horizon, so, even on a sunny day in the fall, the sun will not necessarily be seen. The man fails to understand why no sun can be seen because all he knows is his experience of the sun in his own US culture. Furthermore, the fact that there is no sun is significant because it helps show exactly how cold it is, yet the man is completely oblivious to the danger.

Further culture clashes can be seen in the fact that the man is completely oblivious to what it means for the weather to be 50 degrees below zero, is headless to the old man's warnings that the cold is dangerous, and needs to learn new ways of surviving, which he failed to learn. All in all, he is far too accustomed to experiencing the cold in his own US culture and too naive to understand that the cold has a whole new meaning in the culture of the Yukon.

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