To Build a Fire Analysis by Jack London


The central conflict in the story is between the arrogant man and humbling nature. The man represents knowledge and modernity whereas the dog represents instinct and adaptability.

There is also conflict between youth and experience as exemplified by the man and the old-timer respectively. These conflicts are resolved by the eventual realization by the man of his erroneous ways and his tragic death.


In the climax of the story, the strife of the traveller reaches its highest state. His first fire goes out under the weight of the snow and he is unable to light another one as his fingers are frostbitten. He seeks desperately to catch his dog but it keeps away at a safe distance.


The wintry route to the camp is a symbol of human achievement and so is the fire that the man is able to build. They represent the intellect and ability to adapt. The fire also represents security.

The failure of man to reignite the fire symbolizes the fallibility of human knowledge and technological advancement that cannot replace natural instinct and skills. 

The camp represents the destination and goal of a journey whereas the old man represents experience and wisdom. The traveller represents youthful exuberance and pride while the dog represents natural ways and survival instincts.

Point of View

The story is written from the point of view of a third-person narrative. The events are described by an outside onlooker who can read the actions and thoughts of the caretaker.

The narrator is able to speak about the conversation between men, their internal thoughts and even the instincts of the dog. The narrator also provides commentary and judgment when it comes to the events and actions within the story.


The mood of the story is ominous and suspense-filled. The traveller is constantly fearful and suspects of his own prideful ways. He is wary of the dangers of his quest and is desperately trying to convince himself to stay calm.

There is a sense of impending doom and panic throughout the text of the story which culminates into a painful death of the traveller.


In the end and eventually, the man tries to run out his trouble and in doing so cements his wintry burial. He collapses on his feet and realizes the error of his ways and pride in not taking a partner.

He resigns to his demise and accepts death tranquilly. The dog, on the other hand, loiters away toward the next camp for food and warmth.