“To Build a Fire” by Jack London examines the issue of man against nature. In the story, the protagonist leaves the Yukon Trail to confront the wilderness of the Yukon Territory. He is quite cold and builds a fire. However, due to his laziness, he builds the fire directly under a large tree. He realized later that he should have built the fire in the open. Since the tree had deep snow on the branches, the weight of the snow eventually fell through the tree bough. The snow landed on the man and the fire. The man was already quite cold and wet. He required the fire to warm himself. He also realized that he had made the mistake of venturing out into the wilderness alone. He had been warned to take a person with him; if he had a mate with the him in the wilderness he might survive. “If he only had a tree mate” (299). When the tree released the snow, the man realized these mistakes. He was likely to die as a result of his poor planning and poor decision-making.
According to the narrator, the protagonist “had just heard his own death sentence” (269). Perhaps the most interesting thing about the entire incident which spells doom is that rather than being livid or disheartened or even bewildered by this sudden and tragic turn of events, “the man was shocked” (296). Despite the fact that is already immediately aware of the series of bad choices he made, he still retains the capacity to be shocked that his judgment, informed by experience and knowledge gained from others, is not enough to overcome the bitter predictability of cruel, base nature.