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Workbook Answers of To Build A Fire

1. Describe how did the man in the story behave in Crisis? What happened to him? Did the dog meet the same fate?

Ans. In the story"to build a fire", the man and the dog were caught in two respective accidents, one after the other. First the dog was made to walk in front of the man to test the ground covered with ice and snow. Suddenly, it floundered. Its feet had broken through The crust. It got away to one side on the firmer ground. Its fore, were wet and the water clinging to them at once turned into ice. It bit out the ice from his toes. Even his master help him. But when the master himself broke into the softlayer of ice, he was alone in his efforts to help himself.

It so happened that the man had just finished his lunch at the fork of the creek. He had built some fire to keep himself warm while eating. The Lunch was over, and he resumed his walking. It was one hundred and seventy degrees below freezing point. At one point he suddenly broke through. He wet himself half to his knees before he could get out to the firmer crust. Now it became absolutely necessary to build a fire and dry out his foot and leg coverings. She gathered some dry wood under a tree. he built the fire slowly and carefully. His nose, his cheek and his feet were getting colder and colder. His finger were already Numb.

His socks were covered with frozen ice. He was preparing to cut this hard coating with his knife, but an accident occurred once again. The trees above had lots of Snow loaded on its branches. It started falling down. The fire was put out. The man was already incapacitated by freezing cold. His toes were almost frozen. Now he was shocked. He made frantic efforts to build another fire., this time in the open. Now a large piece of green moss fell into the Fire and it was blotted out. In the meantime, the dog sat warm and secure in his fur coating. The man was so desperate that he thought of killing the dog to bury his hands in its warm body. But the dog was cautious. The man was crippled by the ice clinging to him.

In his last efforts, the man moved his arms to and fro to warm up. He ran like a mad man to stimulate his blood circulation. But he fell down, unable to rise. Body started freezing. At last, he accepted his fate embrraissed death gracefully. The dog waited. Its senses that's something awful had happened. It howled and wined on catching the scent of death. Then it ran up the trail towards the camp where other men were waiting to give it food and shelter. a) What are the challenges and difficulties faced by the man on his way to the base camp?

Answer : The unnamed protagonist of the story set out on a difficult and risky journey to be reunited with his friends at the base camp. He hoped to reach the camp by 6 o’clock in the evening. He was well prepared for the journey on a snowy evening. He was aware of the dangers on his path but he thought he would overcome them.

When the man resumed his walk after lunch, he suddenly fell through the ice into water and wet himself to his shins. His feet and fingers became numb. But he continued his walk. At one place he tried to make fire. He gathered wood and built a fire among some pine trees. This was a mistake . He took twigs from the tree, and dropped them under the fire. As he shook the tree, the snow on the boughs fell down and blotted the fire. He tried to build the fire but in vain. With numb hands, he tried to protect the fire, but in doing so he actually put out the fire. Thus he faced many problems. Finally, he met his death as a hero. The difficulties took his life.

2.What do you know about the setting of the story ‘To Build A Fire’?

Ans: Although Jack London has not given the time and place where the story is set, yet from the names of places we can easily infer these details. First of all there are references to the Klondike, to such rivers on the Yukon and to such cities as Dawson. We can infer that the story takes place in Klondike region of Canada near Alaska. There is also the mention of an ‘Old claim’ on Henderson Creek. This also confirms it. The exact time is not mentioned but from the ‘gold rush’ which began in 1897 we can guess the time.

During the Kondik ‘Gold Rush’ many people flocked to Canada’s Yukon territory in search of fortune.

Moreover we learn that the story is set in wilderness of the frozen Yukon during harsh winter months. There was no sun nor hint of sun in the sky. In this region the man walks and due to inexperience and lack of imagination he loses his life in the cold.

3. One of the themes of the story ‘To Build A Fire’ is man’s struggle against the forces of nature. Discuss it with reference to the story.

Ans: ‘To Build A Fire’ is an interesting story focussing on man’s struggle against nature. Man often underestimates the forces of nature and in an attempt to overpower nature he fails miserably. One such man is the protagonist in the story. He is a newcome in this land. He goes alone in Yukon wilderness in extremely  low temperature. He does not think of his frailty as a human being. He is overconfident of his stamina. He is indifferent to the fact that man can live with certain narrow limits of heat and cold.

During this journey, he is again and again reminded of his weakness as a lone individual. Each time removes his gloves his fingers become numb. His nose and cheeks begin to freeze. He is amazed to see his spittle freeze in mid-air before hitting the snow. When he stops for lunch his feet go numb. He realises his weakness yet he takes pride in his abilities. When he builds the fire the second time, he feels so proud that he makes fun of the old timer’s advice.

The story shows that nature is more powerful than man. The brutal, intense cold kills the man. The man was warned by experienced expeditioners not to travel after ‘below fifty’ without a partner. He did not pay heed to their advice. He succeeded in building a dire second time but the treacherous tree blotted out the fire. The flame of fire withered away in him. Finally he resigned to the power of nature.

4. Describe briefly how the man burnt his hands while building a fire.

Ans: The man and his dog depart from the main Yukon trail to reach the Henderson camp. It is very cold. The temperature is about seventy five degree below zero. After covering a good distance the man stops for lunch, builds a fire and warms himself. The dog also sits beside the fire and feels good. Then he resumes the journey. After a while he falls into a concealed spring and wets himself up to his shirts. His fingers become numb. It becomes imperative to build the fire again. He unties the moccasins. He gathers wood and builds the fire. But with his shaking the tree for twigs, the snow on the bough falls down and blots the fire.

He decides to build the fire again. He gathers dry grasses and twigs then he reaches in his pocket for a piece of birch bark. He fails to catch hold of it as his fingers are numb. He fails to catch hold of it as his fingers are numb. His hands have stopped working. He catches the match in his teeth and scratches it on his leg. As it flames he holds it with his teeth to the birch bark. But the smoke causes him to cough. When he coughs the match falls into the snow and goes out. Then he catches the whole bunch of matches between the heels of his hands and lights them simultaneously. His hands get burnt. With numb hands he tries to protect the fire but in so doing he puts out the fire.

5. Comment on the title of the story ‘To Build A Fire.’

Ans: The title of the story ‘To Build A Fire’ is  quite apt and suggestive. Fire is the source of life especially in the conditions in which the protagonist of the story finds himself. First the fire is for convenience and the last is for survival.

The whole story revolves around building of fire. The man has ventured out on a short journey on a very cold day. The temperature is about seventy degrees below zero. Due to extreme cold he suffers from frost bite. His face becomes numb and his cheeks are frostbitten. His hands and feet also become numb. But he is confident that he can survive. He pauses for lunch. He builds a fire to warm himself. The dog also feels at ease by the fire. Then he resumes his journey. Soon there is need to build the fire again. He builds the fire but a pile of snow from the boughs puts it out. He does his best but fails to build the fire. His failure proves costly . Fear of death makes him panicky. He runs to warm himself but to no avail.

Thus ‘fire’ remains at the centre of the story. The title of the story is therefore very appropriate and suggestive.

6. Adventure is one of the prominent themes in the story. Discuss and illustrate.

Ans: Adventure fiction refers to fiction which usually presents danger or gives the reader a sense of excitement. ‘To Build A Fire’ is an adventure story because the hero in this story remains constantly under threat of being overtaken by the wilderness.

The man, the unnamed protagonist of the story, is filled with adventure. He represents all those who are daring and adventurous. In spite of the warning given by the old timers from Sulphur Creek, he embarks on a nine hour exciting journey through Yukon wilderness without a trail mate.

From the beginning it is clear that the man is not given to much thinking. He does not think of the consequences of his actions. Nature is against him. The temperature is 75 ° below zero. But the man is full of confidence rather over confidence. He does not meditate upon his physical frailty. It is so cold that his nose and cheek bones become numb. He was startled when his spittle crackled in the air. The juice that was being expelled from his mouth on chewing tobacco was instantly freezing. His fingers went numb yet he did not stop. It was in such deadly cold that his adventurous spirit was at its peak.

The man had several thrilling experiences. He walked over a trail of snow. He plunged in among the big spruce trees. He noticed the changes in creek, the curves and bends. He watched the creek-beds and its banks. He felt pain in his hands. He found it very difficult to build fire the second time. He saw it die. All these thrilling experiences make the journey adventurous. But these experiences forced him to accept defeat. He could not reach the camp. He died with dignity.

7. What do you think is the message that the writer wants to convey in ‘To Build a Fire’?

Ans: ‘To Build A Fire’ is an adventure story built on the theme of heroic will to fight. The real hero is one who is firmly determined to achieve his goal despite formidable challenges and insurmountable obstacles. But the man must develop the ability to think of the future consequences of his present actions. The message which Jack London wants to convey through this story is that before undertaking anything in life one must think of its results. The  man in ‘To Build A Fire’ has many good human traits – doggedness, persistence, daring etc. – but he lacks the capacity to think of the consequences of his actions. He has ignored all the pieces of good advice given to him by the old-timer from Sulphur Creek. He recalls them at every turn of bad luck but it is too late to men. Consequently, he had to decide to accept the inevitable (death) with dignity, and that is truly his moral victory in defeat.

8. How does the ending of the story appeal to you?

Ans: When the man realizes that he cannot escape death he becomes panicky. Frostbite is now little worrisome. He starts running along he creek, with the dog at his heels. He feels good at first but then he loses his stamina. He falls and finds it difficult to rise. He gets up with difficulty and again starts running. Again he falls. Then he sits quietly. He feels that his end is near. He sits quietly and decides to meet his death with dignity. Apparently he has accepted his defeat in front of the cruel forces of nature. He feels that he was wrong. He had been running recklessly rather than accepting the inevitable. He imagines his friends finding his body the next day, with this thought he falls off into a peaceful sleep. When the dog detects death in the man’s scent it runs away in the direction of the camp where it hopes to get fire and food.

The ending of the story is quite appropriate. In the struggle between man and nature, the forces of nature, which are certainly more powerful win. It reminds us of man’s frailty in facing nature unaided by technology.

9. Whereas the man’s rationality proved to be useless against the forces of nature, the dog’s instinct helped him survive? Discuss with reference to the story ‘To Build A Fire’.

Ans: ‘To Build A Fire’ is an interesting and meaningful story. It concentrates on man’s struggle against nature. The man, the protagonist in the story is without imagination. In spite of the warnings of the old timer he ventures to undertake the journey. He carries with him thermometers, woolen clothes, maps, matches and some birch-bark. Above all he has physical and mental strength. He is proud of his rationality. He has confidence in himself. In a way he is smarter than his dog yet he is afflicted with ‘hubris’ and thus he fails to overcome nature. The man and his dog start walking to another camp. The temperature is seventy five degrees below zero. They are required to battle nature to succeed. Nature in the form of extreme cold defeats the man.

The man being without imagination works only on reason. He does not consider nature as something that would overpower him. He has lost his instincts that sustain the dog. At one stage the man feels a great surge of envy’ on seeing the dog warm and secure in its natural covering. When the man dies the dog considers its own survival. When it senses death it moves towards the camp where it would get food and shelter. Its instincts are more powerful than the man’s intelligence. The dog is more fit to survive . It lives when the man has died.


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