What is the theme of To Build a Fire and how does it relateto the setting?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Clearly one of the central themes of this short story that can be related to the setting is the way in which this story places man against nature and finds man the lesser of these two combatants. The central issue with the anonymous protagonist of this story is that he is arrogantly blind to "frailty in general" and that he is unable to think deeply about "man's place in the universe." He is forced to change his impressions and ideas when faced with the stark and lethal beauty of the setting which he finds himself in, and he comes to realise his inherent weakness and mortality in the face of such power and might.

The setting therefore is absolutely essential for the development of this theme. It is the setting that forces the man to realise how weak and frail he inherently is, and that man only underestimates the force of nature at his peril. The ending of the story, and the way that the man is forced to concede his weakness and die as a result, clearly shows how the setting and this important theme are linked.

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