The theme of individual versus nature

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Patrick Richardson
Mrs. R Piette
EAE 3U-03
October 18th, 2010
Man is man’s worst enemy
The theme of individual versus nature in Jack London’s short story “To build a fire” demonstratesthrough the dog’s instinct and the man’s pride that nature is superior to mankind. The dog’s instinct is portrayed through the character of the dog; the foil in “To build a fire”. The dog’s instinct isthe epitome of nature’s strength because the dog does not know why or how its instinct affects it but it just knows that’s what it’s supposed to do. “This was a matter of instinct./It did not knowthis. It merely obeyed the mysterious prompting that arose from the deep crypts of its being.” (London 4) Contrarily to the dog, the man uses his judgment to determine what he must do in order tosurvive; a strategy which proves to be very futile. The dog’s instinct, and thus nature, cannot be defeated. “Its instinct told a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment.” (2) Theman meets his demise not only because he relies on his judgment but also because he has too much pride. Jack London’s short story is also a perfect testament to how pride is man’s greatest enemy.The character of the man, chechaquo, is the protagonist in the story. He bases all his decisions on his judgment. “But the man knew, having achieved a judgment on the subject,” (4) He believes thatthe only right thing to do is what a real man would do. The old-timer – another foil character – warns him of all the dangers of travelling the Klondike in such conditions; all of which arecriticized and ignored. “Those old-timers were rather womanish, he thought. All a man had to do was keep his head, and he was all right. Any man who was a man could travel alone.” (6) Ultimately, judgmentwas no match for instinct and nature prevailed over man. Jack London has very precisely demonstrated, through the dog’s instinct and the man’s pride, that nature was, is, and will always be,...