What did the old timer say in "To Build a Fire"?
In "To Build a Fire," the old-timer from Sulphur Creek told the newcomer that "no man should travel alone in that country after 50 below zero."
In Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire," a newcomer makes the fatal decision to travel through the treacherous Yukon alone in freezing temperatures seventy-five degrees below zero. In the story, the newcomer is portrayed as an arrogant, ignorant man, who scoffs at the old man from Sulphur Creek's wise advice and decides to make the dangerous journey on his own.
The old man from Sulphur Creek advised the newcomer to not travel alone in temperatures lower than fifty degrees below zero. The old man from Sulphur Creek is familiar with the territory, respects the natural environment, and understands the dangers of traveling alone in extremely cold weather. Instead of listening to the old man's advice, the inexperienced traveler considers him "womanish" and foolishly pushes his luck.
The traveler's only companion is his dog, and he must rely on himself to brave the harsh conditions. Unlike its inexperienced owner, the dog recognizes the dangerous situation and realizes that they should not be traveling alone. The dog is attuned to nature and hopes that its owner will turn around or build a fire.
During the journey, the inexperienced traveler ends up falling through the ice and mistakenly builds a fire directly underneath a snowy tree branch. When the snow falls onto the fire, it extinguishes the flames, and the newcomer quickly experiences the effects of hypothermia. Eventually, the traveler succumbs to the cold and dies in the wilderness. If the newcomer would have listened to the old man's advice, he would still be alive.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial