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Naturalistic elements in To Build a Fire

By Sharon Chase, grade 12, 136 words

If I were to write a book from a Naturalistic worldview, I would include several identifying characteristics: First, I would make it a story about an extremely uncomfortable experience. Perhaps it would be a story about a man struggling to survive in the Yukon. "Day had broken cold and grey, exceedingly cold and grey, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. " He would be determined to survive, but in the end, he would die. "A certain fear of death, dull and oppressive, came to him... This threw him into a panic, and he turned and ran up the creek-bed along the old, dim trail. " Second, I would make Nature the controlling force, not God. My character would have to be pitted against the forces of Nature. "He was losing in his battle with the frost. " I would portray life as it is, and my character would be reduced to animalistic behavior in order to survive. "He pulled on his mittens with his teeth, and threshed his arms back and forth, beating his hands with all his might against his sides. " To emphasize irony, I might even let an animal survive while the man dies. "Later, the dog whined loudly. And still later it crept close to the man and caught the scent of death... Then it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food-providers and fire-providers. "

The short story To Build a Fire uses all of these naturalistic elements and more. It is the perfect model of a Naturalistic story.

bibliography: To Build a Fire, by Jack London, Dover Edition page 157



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