Why is it a mistake to build the fire under the spruce tree in "To Build a Fire"?

2 Answers

kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Strangely, there are times where it would be a really good idea to build a fire under a tree.  If you are trying to escape detection and want something to try and dissipate the smoke and prevent people from far away finding your fire, it can be a good idea.  It can also act as a shelter from rain if you are lighting a fire in the rain.

The problem is that the main character in the story is lighting a fire under a spruce tree that is absolutely drenched and hanging with snow.  When some of it melts, you are creating rain or even bringing down a lot of snow onto your fire, in this case leading to the man's death.

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connienelson's profile pic

connienelson | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

It is a mistake to build the fire under the tree because the heat of the fire will melt the snow on the tree and then the resulting water wil extinguish the fire.