Life Altering Consequences.
People make thousands of decisions a day. What to wear, what to eat, what to say, etc.
It is such an instinctive attribute that people hardly ever think about their decisions until they have to face the unexpected consequences. As a result people tend to make dumb choices through their teenage years that inhibits their chance at a successful adult life. Jack London explains this concept of choices, consequences, and not planning ahead, in a very unlikely story. To Build a Fire. Using Mood, Flashback, and Foreshadowing he outlines this pattern in mere nineteen pages.
He even hints at what could have been. A question I am sure everyone ponders when they think back to what they did in their youth and how it has affected them today. It is natural for the mood to change when something bad happens to a person either in a book or in real life. One unplanned mistake can effect everything and change anything. Jack London switches his mood back and forth as his protagonist’s situation goes from bad, to better, to worse. “The fire was a success.
He was safe.” (10, 21) “The man was shocked. It was as though he had just heard his own sentence of death.” (11, 24) In one moment he creates a relaxed feeling and the next doomed. This adds to the depth and meaning of a story.
London uses this to his advantage and while telling his readers why.”It was his own fault or, rather, his mistake. He should not have built the fire under the spruce tree. He should have built it in the open. But it had been easier to pull the twigs from the brush and drop them directly on the fire.” (11, 23) He hints at a lesson for us to learn.
A lesson that parents are constantly trying to teach their kids: always think things through. The man had known better yet still he was careless. He did not think things through and he paid the highest price. This lesson is of course continued with the flashbacks that appear throughout the story.”That man from Sulphur Creek had spoken the truth… And he had laughed at him at the time!” (7, 15) “He remembered the advice of the old-timer on Sulphur Creek, and smiled.
.. Well, here he was; he had had the accident; he was alone; and he had saved himself… Any man who was a man could travel alone.
” (10, 21) This is the average attitude of a teenager: “Don’t tell me what to do! I can take care of myself.” “Perhaps the old-timer on Sulphur Creek was right. If he had only had a trail-mate he would have been in no danger now. The trail-mate could have built the fire.” (11, 24) “The old-timer on Sulphur Creek was right, he thought in the moment of controlled despair that ensued: after fifty below, a man should travel with a partner.
” (14, 29) Here the teenager, or the man, finally believed the old-timer and took his advice to heart. Only too late. Parents can relate this to how they thought when they were only teenagers. When they had to face their own parents with their heart in their feet because they blatantly disobeyed a family law. Everyone knows that for a parents there is nothing that breaks their heart more than watching their children become careless and not look to the future. They can see what is going to happen one day but can’t do anything about it.
Perhaps it is this that makes them more worried so they warn their children. Then the child get mad and mess up anyway. Whatever it is, knowing a bit of the future does not ease the suspense. It Enhances it. This is called Foreshadowing. “The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold.
It knew that it was no time for travelling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment.” (3, 6) In this foreshadow Jack London was talking about the man’s faithful dog. The Dog was a Siberian Husky; closely related to the wolf; bred for the harsh conditions of the Yukon Trail; a master survivalist it was; and yet the dog new better then to be out in that cold. This once again causes readers to cry out “What were you thinking?” yet by now they know the answer.
He was not. Throughout this story one mistake caused a ripple effect, which caused more mistakes, which caused more mistakes, which caused his death.It becomes clear that the man should have listened to his peers. He should have prepared for everything. Because although people tend to think, “oh it can’t happen to me,” it can! While people don’t have to be unreasonably paranoid: it is always ideal to plan for the future. Finally at the end of the story Jack London writes, “He drifted on from this to a vision of the old-timer on Sulphur Creek.
He could see him quite clearly, warm and comfortable, and smoking a pipe. “You were right, old hoss; you were right,” the man mumbled to the old-timer of Sulphur Creek.” Three sentences and Jack London ties everything together. Although Choices are hard at times, it is always better to make the good ones now then opposed to the easy ones and dealing with the life altering consequences for the rest of the future.