The Climax in To Build a Fire
After our class discussion, it seemed like that most of the class enjoyed the short story, To Build A Fire, by Jack London. I enjoyed the story personally myself also. During the discussion, there was something that I disagreed with. It was said that the climax of the story occurs at the part of the story in which the man lights all of the matches and the fire goes out. Then he scratched the bunch along his leg. It flared tightly against the matches. Then he scratched the bunch along his leg. It flared into flame, seventy sulpher matches at once (par. 29, 108). I am not sure that I agree with this. I believe that the climax in To Build a Fire is at the instance he decided to face his death.
There are many factors that contribute to help me make this decision. First of all, the definition of a climax is the point of no return . For someone to be able to face death and accept that they are going to die, and actually calculate the specific way that they are going to die seems to be a point in which there is no return. Well, he was bound to freeze anyway, and he might as well take it decently (par 38, 110). This is a point in the story in which he realizes there is no going back. This also helps us feel a side of the man in which we haven t seen yet. Since we don t know his name, or much about him, we don t get to see the other side of him.
Another factor contributing to this, is the fact that there is not really any other option. The climax that was talked about in class was the part of the story where the man drops the matches, and there is no more fire. I believe that this cannot be the climax because the man still has small hope in surviving in other things other than just the matches. At one point he ponders the decision on wrapping his body in the carcass of the dog. He would kill the dog and bury his hands in the warm body until the numbness went out of them (par 31 108).
With this said, I believe that perhaps when Jack London wrote this short story he was perhaps leading toward a touching ending. While most of the story seems to be dark and gloomy, and seems as though there is a task that must be accomplished or defeated (the Yukon). The ending shows us a different tone than the rest of the story. It gives us a peace about what the man has accepted. He admits the old man was right, and slowly drifts off into a comfortable and satisfying sleep.