To Build a Fire
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To Build a Fire Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Even today, stories of wilderness survival are extremely popular. Why do you think this is? What is it about wilderness survival that keeps audiences coming back for more?
- This story takes place around the year 1900. How might the story be different if it took place today? (Would the man just text his buddies at the camp to say, "I'm gonna B a little L8"?)
- The main character in this story seems to take a pretty easygoing attitude toward his dangerous situation. It's not until things are really, really bad that he starts to panic. Would he have been better off if he'd panicked earlier, or was he right to remain calm for so long? Why?
- From what we can tell, the man in this story begins his journey knowing that he has more than nine hours of walking ahead of him.
- Why wouldn't he just poke his head out the door and decide the day was too cold for traveling? Is it believable that he didn't really notice how cold it was until he'd gone too far to turn back?
- The narrator of this story makes sure to say, "there was no keen intimacy between the dog and the man" (15). How does this comment play out in the story? How would you characterize the man's relationship to the dog, and what does it suggest about London's general view of humans and animals? How might the story have been different if there were keen intimacy between the guy and his canine?
- How can we read "To Build a Fire" as a cautionary tale? What lesson can we take away from it that's relevant beyond the story's Yukon setting?
- When you picture the main character of this story, what age do you think he is? The narrator is somewhat vague on this; but judging by the descriptions the story gives you, how old do you think the man is? Why might that matter?
- What do today's stories about perseverance and survival (i.e. The Hunger Games) have in common with London's story? How are they different?