This short story is about a man in his first winter, as a newcomer in the land, a chechaquo. Jack London's cold and amazing observations of the man and his foolish confidence in the midst of nature's power, forms the basis of the story "To Build a Fire." As the man, who is the main character, and his animal companion decide and take a less-traveled path into their Yukon camp, they encounter a tale of wilderness survival and terrible circumstances. The characters in this story are the man --whose name is not mentioned, the dog, the old timer, and the boys. In this work, I have done a character analysis of the main character –the man.
The name of this “man” is purposely not given since the deterministic environment here is more significant than the man’s individuality and free will. His main aim at the start of the story is to get to the camp and meet the boys in order to prospect for the gold. The man lacks the ability to think about or focus into the future consequences of his present facts, actions, and omissions. This is his greatest deficiency, which contributes to his death. It is clearly shown at the beginning of the story where the extreme cold conditions do not worry the man or influence him to think about his death. Furthermore, the man is not able to realize the dangers of building a fire under the spruce tree.
In all the actions of the man, he exercises intellectuality. The man thinks about temperature from a scientific perspective. Instead of considering the adverse effects of extreme temperatures, he looks at it in terms of degrees Fahrenheit.
The man does not use instinct. Even without thinking, instinct would have informed him on the dangers of certain actions. On the contrary, the instinct of the dog makes it understand the dangers posed by cold temperatures. Remember the dog has no idea of what the thermometer or degrees Fahrenheit is all about.
The man lacks free will. This is what acquits him from being responsible for the accidents he encounters. According to the author, the second accident was because of the man’s own fault or, rather, his mistake.
With respect to the major themes of the story which include determinism, amorality and responsibility, and instinct over intellectualism. The aforementioned are the characters of the man. He is determined. The author reveals how the man lacks free will in his interactions with nature. He encounters accidents; however, he is determined to succeed. When faced with the first accident, the man refers to it as “bad luck”. This reflects his lack of free will. Lack of free will directly results into lack of responsibility. The man bears no responsibility for his actions. The man was not able to anticipate that he was to fail through the snow, which is a bad luck. However, he ought to have predicted the consequences of building a fire under a spruce tree. The man is an intellectual. He applies intellectual properties and skills more than the instinctive ones. For instance, the man uses very complicated tools to build the fire, he understands his geographical position with a map, and he understands the degree of coldness through the use a thermometer. However, his intellect causes him more harm.