What is an example of nature being depicted as cruel and indifferent in "To Build a Fire"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many examples of the cruelty and indifference of nature in Jack London's "To Build a Fire." The chechaquo makes several fatal mistakes during his journey. Most importantly, he fails to heed the advice of the oldtimer to never travel alone in extremely cold temperatures. Though the man attempts to safely prepare for his journey, leaving early in the day in order to give himself plenty of time to complete his journey, he falls victim to the seemingly innocent actions of Mother Nature; he is "without imagination." He cracks through the ice and is forced to spend precious time drying his clothes and thawing out his body. He foolishly builds a fire under the branches of a snow-laden tree, causing the snow to fall and put out his fire. He is unable to find dry wood to build his final fire, and he wastes his last matches when his frozen fingers fail to ignite them properly. As a final insult, his faithful dog--

"who is half-wild and thus closer to nature—feels 'depressed' by the cold."

--fails to provide him needed warmth at the end, recognizing through a natural instinct that the man's call for him is not to the dog's benefit. The dumb animal survives while the intelligent human dies, showing again that nature is not selective when it comes to the survival of man or beast.