To Build a Fire

Read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London.
Responding to the Story

  • The author writes of the main character, “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination.” Why would it be important to have imagination living and traveling in a harsh climate? What other characteristics or qualities does the man have? How are these demonstrated?
  • When did you first suspect that the man was going to die? How is his death foreshadowed?
  • Who or what is the “enemy” in this story? How did the man deal with this enemy? What type of conflict is developed in this story?
  • Why do you think Jack London gives no name to the man or dog?
  • What examples in the story can you find that tell you it was written a long time ago? Could the events in the story occur today? Why or why not?

Literature Studies: Short Story Theme
In “To Build a Fire,” Jack London not only tells his story convincingly, and entertainingly, he also expresses his feelings about the North and how people react to it.

  • In a sentence, write what you think the author’s theme is. List three examples from the story to s support your view. For each example, write a sentence that explains why it supports the author’s theme.

Writing an Essay
Look over the notes you’ve made so far. What you have written may be enough for a rough outline for an essay about the story’s theme.

  • The sentence you wrote about the author’s theme is your thesis. this is a statement or viewpoint you are trying to prove or explain.
  • The sentences you wrote for the examples are similar to the topic sentences you might write for the body of your essay. They develop and prove your thesis.
  • Review your notes. Is your thesis clear and easy to understand? Do your examples support your thesis or do they stray from its topic. Revise your sentence outline.
  • Now write a five-paragraph essay. The first paragraph will be your introduction and include your thesis sentence. Write a paragraph for each of your topic sentences. End your essay with a one-paragraph summary or conclusion. Work with a partner to edit and revise your essay.

Research: Gather Facts
“To Build a Fire” takes place in the Yukon. Use online sources to find out more about the first large settlement in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. List each fact you discover. Include a link to the source of each fact you collect. Divide your facts into categories, for example, the type of people who went there, or how people traveled to the gold fields. Using these categories as guidelines, write a brief report.

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