"To Build A Fire" by Jack London employs the natural world of the Yukon in winter. This is the conflict that the main character faces as he begins his journey to another mining camp.
The protagonist shows his ignorant inexperience by ignoring the warnings of those more experienced than he. The old timer warned him not to go without a partner. In his arrogance and inexperience, he feels that he can handle whatever comes.
His companion was a large husky dog. With his many coats of hair and his instincts, the dog wonders why they are out in this weather.
The temperature was somewhere between 50 -75 degrees below zero. This made no impression on the man. To him, the temperature just meant that he would be cold and uncomfortable.
As they two traveled through the white landscape, the man spat. As soon as it left his mouth, it instantly froze, popped, and surprised the man.
He was keenly observant of everything around him. Unfortunately, he was unable to know exactly where to step, but for a while he was able to maintain his footing and not get his feet wet.
At noon, he sat down to eat. He tried but the ice muzzle of spit prevented him from taking a bite. Laughing to himself, he realized that he had not built a fire to warm up. When he got up to build the fire, he discovered that he could not feel his legs or feet.
He finally gathered the fire wood and built the fire. As he began to walk again, the worst thing that could happen did. He fell through the ice halfway up to his knees. He would have to rebuild the fire and dry out his feet and boots.
After some difficulty, he had the fire going again. He knows that if he does not dry out his feet, he will lose them. Running will only make them freeze more in this kind of temperature. He believes that he is safe because the fire is blazing. Then tragedy hits.
He had built the fire under a tree. One of the limbs drops all of its snow on top of the fire, and puts it out. Realizing how foolish it was to build the fire under the tree, he admits to himself that maybe the old timer knew what he was talking about.
Hurrying to rebuild the fire, he attempts to gather more firewood. His hands have lost all feeling. He tries to light the first match. He does but drops it into the snow. Finally, he lights the entire bunch of seventy matches and with no feelings in his hands,drops them into the snow.
Desperate, he looks at the dog and thinks that if he kills the dog, he could warm himself in the insides of the dog. The dog does not trust the man and refuses to come up to him.
There was no way that he could kill the dog because he could not hold the knife. The man sits for a moment trying to calm himself. He knows that it is likely that he will not survive.
He could run, but he has no stamina.
Several times he stumbled, and finally he tottered, crumpled up, and fell. When he tried to rise, he failed. He must sit and rest, and next time he would merely walk and keep on going. As he sat and regained his breath, he noted that he was feeling quite warm and comfortable. Than the man drowsed off...
The dog observes the man and wonders why there is not fire. He faces the man and waits but there is no reaction from him. The dog whined loudly and crept closer. He smelled the scent of death. The dog turns toward the trail and in the direction of the camp and fireproviders.