What is a symbol in the story "To Build a Fire"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Fire is a repeating symbol in Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire." Fire, and the successful building of a fire, serves many purposes. Above all, it is a life-sustaining force in the deadly cold climate of the Yukon. It is used for warmth to preserve the human body, since a continuous campfire is necessary for sleeping; otherwise, a man would freeze in the extreme, sub-zero temperatures. Fire is used to cook food, further sustenance for man. It is used for protection against wild animals. But fire's most important use in the story comes as a heat source to thaw frozen clothing. The Chechaquo, the main character in the story, recognizes this importance, and he uses fire for this purpose. In the end, fire also causes the man's demise, melting the snow in the tree and sending it to the earth, where the fire is extinguished. With the death of the fire comes the death of the man.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial