The protagonist’s fatal flaw, the personal quality that leads to his eventual downfall, is the fact that he is “without imagination,” according to the narrator. He is new to the Yukon Territory, and he is not appropriately frightened or even awestruck by the incredibly cold temperatures there. When he ponders the extreme cold of fifty degrees below zero, he does not really consider the myriad ways in which something could go wrong and in which he could die out in nature. He simply considers that he will need to put on his warmest clothes and shoes, and that the frost will be thick and biting on his extremities.
His lack of thought concerning how quickly he could become incapacitated by the cold or by some accident—like stumbling into knee-deep water that might require him to stop and build a fire with quickly freezing fingers—also renders him quite proud. He begins to think of the “old-timer” who had offered him advice about traveling in the cold and thinks that this old man was actually rather weak. He is so certain of his own ability to handle the trip, in part because he cannot conceive of anything that might endanger him, that he neglects to take proper precautions or heed the old man's sound advice.