To Build a Fire by Jack London

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Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. How does London characterize the cold in the story? Why would anyone want to live in such cold weather? How do the people who live in Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and other areas that are near the Arctic cope with the cold weather?

2. The man in the story feels superior because he is human. Are humans generally superior to other animals? Why? Are humans ever inferior to other animals?

3. The man in the story abuses the dog by whipping and yelling at it. What other kinds of abuse can be seen in daily life? What can be done to prevent abuse?

4. What would it be like to have no imagination? Some think that people lose "the sense of wonder" as they grow up. That means that they lose the ability to be amazed at the natural world. Why is this a problem?

5. How much are dogs like wolves? How do they differ? Is it a good idea to keep a wolf as a pet? What about other wild animals as pets?

6. Pride is one the man's biggest liabilities in the story. What are you proud of? When can pride be excessive and cause problems like it did for the man in the story?

7. What do you know about the Arctic? What sorts of animals and plants live there? How does a glacier work? Where exactly is the North Pole? How do people survive in such cold climates?

8. How did people develop fire? Why is fire so important? What other inventions did the use of fire allow humans to discover? How do you think travelers in the past built fires without matches? (Hint: You might want to read about the Bronze Age Ice Man who was discovered in the Alps and how he carried fire with him on his travels.)

9. How would the story be different if the man died in a jungle? What dangers exist in jungles? Would the man have been as poorly prepared in a hot climate?