Jack London’s story, “To Build A Fire” is about a struggle of survival between man and nature, which happens through overconfidence and arrogance as opposed to experience and intelligence. These struggles arise through the man’s arrogance and overconfidence by ignoring the signs of nature. The man tries hard to meet his boys at the agreed location and time, but the thick ice makes his journey impossible. The man tries to overcome the challenges of his environment to survive, but nature proves to be more powerful than the man.
The central character in this story is the “man”, although we never learn his name. The man’s main goal is to reach the old camp to meet his boys (458). The man is a dynamic character, who believes that he can conquer anything. In the end he changes by confessing that he should have listened to the old timer, he also discovers that he isn’t just in danger of losing his fingers and toes, but that he is in danger of losing his life (470). The man did not realize how dangerous his actions would be, resulting in his ignorance that leads him to his death.
The supporting character in this story is the dog. The dog is static because he doesn’t change at all throughout the story. The dog is the only companion that the man had, but unlike the man the dog uses his instinct and good sense of smell to survive in the cold wilderness. This portrays when the dog goes to a nearby camp of men, where he could get warmth and food because it could not provide these items on his own (471).
The central conflict in the story is man versus self. The man conflicts with himself by remaining overly confident in himself and his unfamiliar surroundings. He doesn’t pay attention to the danger that he is facing, and attempts to overcome this danger by forcing nature to his will. Man versus self helps us understand the decisions the central character makes throughout the story, and gives us a better understanding as to why he is the way he is.
The supporting conflict in this story is man versus nature, by struggling to survive in the cold wilderness. This conflict is never resolved, resulting in the man’s death. His lack of supplies and food forces him to submit to the forces of nature. He regrets not listening to the old-timer’s advice (470). He is then overwhelmed by panic and tries to make his last attempt at survival, but he fails. At this point he accepts his death and tries to meet it with dignity. This conflict helps us better understand the central character and conflict, because by knowing of the man’s arrogance and cockiness, it is no surprise that in the end of the story he dies by not being more understanding of nature’s warning signs, proving the point that nature is more powerful than man.