illustration fo a man in winter clothes lying on the snow under a tree with a dog standing near him

To Build a Fire

by Jack London

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What is the mood of the story "To Build a Fire?"

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The mood of "To Build a Fire" changes slowly, as the man discovers how unprepared for the cold he really is. At first, the story is told with simple phrases, little excitement, and shows the man's unconcerned nature. He does not worry that it is not sunny, because that is normal so far North. In addition, he is so confident that he can reach the campsite by nightfall that he carries almost no supplies; just matches and his lunch. Even his early sense that the Yukon cold is worse than any he has experienced is not enough to sway him.

Later, as he falls into a spring, wetting his clothing, the mood turns darker, more frantic; the man tries to light another fire, fails, tries to keep calm and finally, as he runs out of matches and has no way to light a fire and thaw himself out, breaks into a desperate run:

He ran blindly, without intention, in fear such as he had never known in his life.... The running made him feel better. He did not shiver. Maybe, if he ran on, his feet would thaw out; and, anyway, if he ran far enough, he would reach camp and the boys.
(Quotes: London, "To Build a Fire," eNotes eText)

This fear becomes his final mistake. The story represents the man's descent from calm deliberation into panicked flight; his brief spots of hope are erased by his inability to to save himself. The simple descriptions of the extreme cold and the man's slow death of hypothermia create an almost claustrophobic mood, and certainly one of inevitability.

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What is the mood of "To Build a Fire" by Jack London?

The mood of London's "To Build a Fire" is ominous or foreboding.  Disaster is waiting to happen. 

The temperature is cold, but more importantly it is colder than the traveler thought.  He is warned not to travel alone, but he does it anyway.  He is new to the land and inexperienced, but, again, more importantly, he has no imagination.  He does not consider what could happen.  He walks on the frozen water, but the covering ice is deceptive. 

The traveler underestimates the natural forces he is pitted against, and he does not understand that he is at their mercy.  The mood is ominous.

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What is the mood of "To Build a Fire" by Jack London?

In many ways, the mood of the text is based on the impending disaster that is about to befall our hapless traveler.  If you look at the opening of the story, much of the description of the setting actually suggests the problems that will befall him.  The description of the weather, the description of the trail, and particularly the description of the dog and the way he is resisting the trip serve to highlight the coming death by cold.  So I would characterize the mood as being a nervous waiting sort of mood, the calm before the storm almost.

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