In "To Build a Fire," what are the traps that the man tries to avoid and what happens despite his attempt to avoid them?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The newcomer worries consistently about falling through the ice.  He knows that if his feet get wet that he must warm them immediately in order to avoid frostbite, hypothermia, and death.  Unfortunately, he chooses to ignore the other "traps" mentioned by the oldtimer back at the camp.  He was warned never to venture out alone when it is so cold, because if he does encounter any problems such as falling through the ice, there would be no one to help him.

The protagonist tries to make his dog walk through the most treacherous-looking sections first, but the dog is not always cooperative.  Near the end, the man does just what he feared--his foot breaks through a thin portion of the ice, and he races to build a fire to warm and dry himself.  His attempts eventually fail, and just as the oldtimer warned, no human is there to build a fire for him; so he succumbs to the elements  while his dog looks on.