Role of Dog in “To Build a Fire”

In “Jack London’s” “To Build A Fire”, this tale is told about a man who is walking on a nine-hour walk in the snow with his dog. The dog is a husky; a “wolfdog.” The narrator mentions how the husky is much like it’s brother dog a wild wolf. This gives readers the vision that the dog is very strong. The narrator emphasizes greatly throughout the story on just how cold it is outside. The man walking is called “the man” throughout the story and is not given a name. London’s story is told in third person point of view and the story is told from the narrator’s point of view rather than the man’s point of view.

The main character, “the man” spends the entire novel oblivious to how dangerous the weather he is putting him and his dog through by walking in such harsh conditions. The man is aware that is cold but believes it will not affect him and his nine-hour trip to come to see some friends. Our narrator describes in great detail of how the man’s salvia froze before hitting the snow. This is the narrator’s way of describing just how cold it is! The weather is unbearable for any human or animal to survive in these harsh conditions.“But all this- the mysterious, far-reaching hairline trail, the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it all- made no impression on the man.” (Kennedy, X. J., and Dorothy M. Kennedy. Dana Gioia)

This quote from the story is showing readers just how oblivious this man is to how drastically severe these conditions are. The man is expecting to be safe walking in such harsh conditions for nine hours long.

As you read the story you can’t help but feel like you are outside with the man and his dog. It’s unbearable! The weather is seventy-five degrees below zero and the man just ignores the obvious signs of danger and keeps walking with his dog whose fur is hardly thick enough to keep him warm. The man is so desperate to meet his goal of meeting up with his friends and to light a fire and have a nice meal. But the man’s goal is unattainable because nine hours in such harsh freezing weather is unattainable.

The narrator makes a big emphasis on how the man has no imagination, and he was alert in things that were not significant. The temperature did not bother him he was just ready to go. He had such a strong desire to make it the camp so he did not care about the severeness of the weather. While the narrator does not tell how old “ the man” in the story is, I am going to assume he is an elderly man. In the Article “Cold Weather Safety For Older Adults”, it states “Older Adults can lose body heat fast, and faster than when they were young. A big chill can turn into a dangerous problem before an older person even knows what’s happening.” (“Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Services) This quote is very similar to what happened to the man at the end story.

At the end of the story, the man freezes to death. The death of the man has been due to the cause of Hypothermia. He becomes so cold and freezes and it happens so quick before he can figure out what is happening to him. The cold seeps on part of his frozen body and the man loses control over his limbs. Now according to the article “Dogs and Cold Weather: How Cold Is Too Cold”, “The cold can be very dangerous to your dog.

A dog who gets too cold could develop hypothermia, a condition where a dog’s body temperature falls below normal.” (“Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) This means the man was putting not only himself but also his dog in deadly danger! The dog in the novel was meant to be walking for nine hours with the man, and luckily the dog did not die! Though, the dog is also in severe danger the dog is loyal and waits for him to get back until the dog smells death on his body. The dog is very wise and backs away and finds shelter on his own at the camp. The dog is very intelligent and is very strong; he is practically a wolf.

A strange thing about the “Lake Of Fire” is that the author fails to give the man or dog a name. In most stories, authors give readers the main characters name and background information so we can get to know them as a person. The story felt impersonal and it felt like you were reading about a strangers story. I do not think the author thought too highly of the man and I am thinking readers were meant to see the man as insignificant. It was hard to connect with the man considering all we heard were negative things about him.

He took his pet out in below 0zero weather, he almost murdered his dog and refused any advice given to him. “Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than the thought that never enters his head.”(Kennedy, X. J., and Dorothy M. Kennedy. Dana Gioia) When I read this thought you could practically hear how the narrator thinks of the man as extremely unintelligent. Although this quote is quite harsh, the narrator was right. The man did not think his plan through at all. The man really believed that he would make it to the camp by six o clock walking in such harsh conditions. The narrator emphasizes greatly that the dog had a wise mind and that the dog has more wisdom than the man because it has an instinct to survive.

In conclusion, I think the main theme of “To Build A Fire” is that animals can be wiser than humans. The story makes you think that the dog has stronger wisdom than the man. I feel this way especially at the end when the dog finds the camp by himself. The narrator says the dog is constantly thinking and his own wisdom. The dog is a husky, he is wise he is a proper wolf dog. A wolf has wisdom because he has an instinct for survival. Unlike the dog’s master, the dog is more aware that the cold weather is not a good time to travel. The man is arrogant, he did not listen to anyone’s advice and believed nothing bad would happen to him in such harsh weather. The man was selfish as well he was concerned with going to the camp he did not even think of the harm this could cause his pet. The man was even willing to murder his dog just for his warmth. Another thing I found odd about this man was that he seemed to have no bond with his dog.

Dogs are considered to be a man’s best friend and this man was ready just to kill his dog off for his own wellbeing. At the end when the man is dying he mutters “you were right” about the advice that an older man advised him not to travel in this weather. The end of the story is dark and depressing. The man ends up dying because he was so stubborn and did not want to listen to listen to anyone but himself. It was hard to feel bad for the man because we hardly get to know who he was. We don’t know the man’s name or background but we do know he was willing to put his dog and his life in danger and even murder his pet. He was very unlikeable but he had no one to blame but himself. The man risked both and his pet’s life for his gain and ended up dying for his stubborn ways.