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The Existential Theme of London's "To Build A Fire" Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire," is the tragic tale of a guy who makes the decision to travel independently through the hostile surroundings of the Yukon in sub-freeing beams and falls prey to the stern and unforgiving power of character. Throughout his journey, the man puts his feet wet as he falls through the ice into the water of a hot spring (London 122). Because of the seriousness of the cold, a few "one hundred and seven degrees under [the] freezing point," the person's life depends upon his ability to promptly light a fire to keep his feet from freezing (122-23). After one, half-successful fire-starting project, and a lot of other pitiful attempts, the hopelessness of this man's lone struggle from the hostile environment of the Yukon begins to become apparent. After a protracted episode of panic where the guy tries desperately to return the sensation into his extremities by "running around like a chicken with its head cut off" (128), the guy at final "grows calm and decides to meet death with dignity..." (Labor 66). The story's central theme is only portrayed by most existentialist authors--that guy lives a solitary existence which is subject to the relentless, unforgiving powers of nature; an ever so subtle portion of this theme is that it is man's goal to discover meaning in his presence. The word existentialist, in addition to the topic of existentialism itself, evades definition. Davis McElroy points out this problem by comparing the act of defining existentialism to the act of attempting "to describe human existence in one sentence..." (xi). For the sake of brevity, possibly a brief, simple definition would be best; in accordance with the American Heritage Dictionar...