To Build A Fire Setting

What is the setting in "To Build a Fire"?

 Can you give specific quotes from the story and explain when the story took place? The time period and milieu would be very helpful.

Expert Answers
sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opening sentence of the story gives readers the location setting of the story.  

Day had dawned cold and gray when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail.

That puts the man in northwestern Canada.  No date is given for when the events of the story take place, but I do know it is taking place during the winter.

There was no sun or promise of sun, although there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day. However, there seemed to be an indescribable darkness over the face of things. That was because the sun was absent from the sky.

The man is far to the north, and the during the winter, the sun won't rise above the horizon.  This has to do with the position of the earth compared to the sun and the tilt of earth on its axis.  If the story took place during the summer, then the sun wouldn't set.  

  There is no specific date as to when the story takes place, but I can offer a fairly accurate guess.  As a reader, I always like to ask "why."  Why is this guy tromping through the snow in the dead of winter in one of the harshest environments on the planet?  The answer -- gold.  In 1896 gold was discovered in the Yukon.  An estimated 100,000 prospectors rushed to the area with hopes of striking it rich.  The gold rush lasted from 1896-1899.  I'm quite sure that the story took place during those dates, because it offers the reader the best explanation for why the main character is putting his life at risk in that part of the world.  

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main character of Jack London's "To Build a Fire" is travelling the "main Yukon trail" in the opening line of the story. The Yukon Territory is the smallest of Canada's three national territories, situated on the western border with Alaska--the setting of many of Jack London's tales. More specifically, the "Chechaquo"--a newcomer to the area--

"... was bound for the old claim on the left fork of Henderson Creek,"

about 10 miles away and about 70 miles south of Dawson. No exact time period is given, but we know that it is late winter or early spring, and the man's trip begins shortly before 9 a.m.; he hopes to arrive in his camp on Henderson Creek by 6 p.m. London's story is probably based

... on his own travels across the harsh, frozen terrain of Alaska and Canada in 1897-98 during the Klondike gold rush...


fdc123 | Student

Thank You