Just Listen: To Build a Fire
One of the most widely anthologized stories in American literature is Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”
Jack London was born John Griffith Chaney on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, California. After working in the Klondike during its gold rush, London returned home and began publishing stories. His novels, including The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Martin Eden, placed London among the most popular American authors of his time and depict elemental struggles for survival. A pioneer in the world of commercial magazine fiction, he was one of the first writers to become a worldwide celebrity and earn a large fortune from writing. Although he became the highest paid writer in the United States for a time, his earnings never matched his expenditures, and he was never freed of the urgency of writing for money.
There are two versions of this story, one published in 1902 and the other in 1908. The 1908 version, our selection for today, is about an unnamed protagonist who ventures out in the subzero boreal of the Yukon territory. He is followed by a native dog and is en route to visit his friends—ignoring warnings from an older man about the dangers of hiking alone in extreme cold.
"Man vs. Nature" is one of the themes present in this short story. The short story depicts the protagonist's battle of life and death while highlighting the importance of the fire.
"To Build a Fire" by Jack London…we begin….