To Build a Fire Questions and Answers
by Jack London

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What is naturalism, and how does Jack London's "To Build a Fire" represent it?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Naturalism is often defined as a type of realism that emphasizes the harsher and more brutal aspects of daily life. In Jack London's Yukon stories, and in his fiction in general, we see a raw, unfiltered picture of nature and of men and animals who attempt to survive in a state of nature, using both their mental and physical strength in a desperate struggle. "To Build a Fire" pits man against the frozen world of the "Northland" as well as against animals. It's the man's life finally pitted against that of the dog that is crucial; the dog has been the man's servant and companion but rebels when the man tries to kill it in order to preserve his own life. The dog survives and the man perishes in the wilderness of the north.

Though this is as harshly brutal and realistic as a story can get, it differs from the iconic examples of naturalism we normally think of, such as the novels of Emile Zola and Stephen Crane, for two main reasons, in my view.

First, it is an adventure story. There is something...

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