In Jack London's story "To Build a Fire," what does the relationship between the dog and the man reveal, and which signs that the dog senses does the man ignore, which leads to his mistake?

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire", the man is a newcomer to the wildness of Alaska, and against all advice, he starts out for his camp alone except for his dog.  The man and the dog are essentially together because the man uses the dog as a tester for thin ice, and the dog stays with the man because he is the one who can provide fire and warmth.  The dog is forced onto the path as the tester for thin ice as the man cannot tell where he might break through into water, but the dog will break through for him.  The dog knows it is too cold to be out and is quite reluctant to be on the ice.  When the dog breaks through, the man builds a fire, eats his lunch, thaws out the dog, and then continues on.  The dog does not understand why the man would leave the warmth of the fire, but reluctantly leaves with the man.  When the man breaks through the ice and gets wet, he knows his life is in danger and tries to light a fire.  When that fails and the snow puts out his fire, he tries again but is too cold by now to control the matches.  Then he looks at the dog as a source of warmth if he kills it and crawls inside.  The dog senses the danger, and stays out of the man's reach.  The man finally sits down, realizes that he will die, and when he is dead, the dog heads out looking for another  man who will provide fire and warmth.  The relationship between the man and the dog is not personal, but purely the man using the dog to help himself and the dog staying with him because he can provide fire and warmth.  When that is gone, the dog leaves.

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