Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat and Jack London’s To Build A Fire Essay

Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat and Jack London’s To Build A Fire

Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat” speaks directly to Jack London’s own story, “To Build A Fire” in their applications of naturalism and views on humanity. Both writers are pessimistic in their views of humanity and are acutely aware of the natural world. The representations of their characters show humans who believe that they are strong and can ably survive, but these characters many times overestimate themselves which can lead to an understanding of their own mortality as they face down death.In “To Build A Fire”, the main conflict throughout is man versus nature although it would be inaccurate to say that nature goes out of its way to assault the man. The fact of the matter is, nature would be just as cold without the man’s presence regardless of him being there .The environment as a whole is completely indifferent to the man, as it frequently is in naturalist literature. The bitter environment does not aid him in any way, and it will not notice if he perishes. In the same way, the dog does not care about the man, only about itself. Ironically enough though, as the man was dying he was getting upset toward the dog because of its natural warmth, the instincts that it had, and its survival skills and those were the elements that the man lacked for survival. It is ironic that the man had to die in order to find out that man’s fragile body cannot survive in nature’s harsh elements, regardless of a human’s natural over-confidence and psychological strength.The protagonist of the story, who is purposely not given a name, as the idea that the environment will determine his fate rather than his free will. The Man is forced to accept that he is not invinc…

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…nd they are simply along for the ride.Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” and “To Build a Fire” by Jack London are both naturalistic tales that portray the universe as a somewhat indifferent being that could not care less for the any of the men in either story. The irony is biting, yet completely subverts the ideals and values that humanity generally holds of being superior and invincible in the world.

Works Cited

Gurian, Jay. “The Romantic Necessity in Literary Naturalism: Jack London.” American Literature: 112-20. Print.London, Jack. “To Build a Fire, by Jack London.” The World of Jack London 2012®. Web. 02 May 2012. .Pizer, Donald. “Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”: How Not to Read Naturalist Fiction.” Philosophy and Literature 34.1 (2010): 218-27. Project Muse. Web. 1 May 2012. .


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