50 Below Zero

Have you made a terrible mistake? A mistake so bad that you think the sun won’t rise tomorrow? Well for our main protagonist in the short story  “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, the sun actually won’t rise tomorrow. In fact, the sun doesn’t really rise at all. “There was no sun or promise of the sun,”(Jack London). Jack London wonderfully describes the setting of the merciless arctic and how a man deals with this cruel weather. The man, whose name we never find out, is stranded near a frozen lake, in a frozen plain, next to frozen trees in a frozen place. The author emphasized this great cold using phrases such as “unbroken white”(Jack London) and “the great cold”(Jack London) to remind us of how setting impacts our character.


The short story constantly reminds us of the loneliness of this man. His only companion being his loyal dog: “Later, the dog howled loudly. And still later it moved close to the man and caught the smell of death.”(London). This loneliness played hand in hand with the cold setting as it further emphasizes the man’s despair and hopelessness, the man does not give up. London used indirect characterization, portraying the bravery and patience of this man through his actions and thoughts, “He worked slowly and carefully, realizing his danger. Gradually, as the flame grew stronger, he increased the size of the sticks with which he fed it.” Through many attempts of perseverance, the man still failed to preserve his fragile life. We find out he had little confidence when he murmured,”‘You were right, old fellow. You were right,'”. This tragic conclusion describes the delicacy of man kind and the massive power of nature.