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“To Build a Fire” and “White Snow” by Jack London Coursework

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Updated: Jun 12th, 2022

Forming a pattern is intrinsic to the art of writing and this fact will become evident in the comparison of any two pieces of writing by a particular author. In order to analyze how patterns in writing occurs, I take the example of Jack London and the following paragraph will analyze the two short stories written by the author, ‘To Build a Fire’ and ‘White Snow,’ and illustrate the instances where one comes across such patterns in terms of the subject discussed in both the stories.

Both the stories deal with the subject of the savageness of nature, manifested in the form of extreme cold conditions, where humans fight for their survival. In both stories Jack London is seen as following similar patterns to convey the severity of the climate to his audience. Right from the choice of titles, both stories can be perceived as sharing a common pattern, in terms of their allusion to snow or cold. Quite obviously, people build a fire to ward off cold which results from snow.

Similarly, ‘White Silence’ is a subtle hint at the ambience existing in a snowbound terrain. While ‘To Build a Fire’ begins with the narration, “Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray…” (London) the author introduces the reader to the extremity of the weather in ‘White Silence’ with an opening scene where one of the characters “bites out the ice which clustered cruelly between the toes” (London) of a dog. Thus, a reader can decipher that the writing pattern used in both the cases is similar, albeit the latter, without being a statement like the former, sounds more effective in terms of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’. Another writing pattern readers may identify as a common thread in these stories is that they mention a trial through snowbound, frost laden terrain where the characters succumb to disasters.

The prose in these stories contain similar phrase like ‘below sixty degrees’ wherein, again, a pattern of mentioning the exact measurement of temperature, intended to evoke a sense of the bitterness of the cold conditions in the readers’ mind, is evident. Yet another writing pattern that exists in these stories is the manner in which the author depicts the cruelty that man shows to animals, through which London implies that man, unlike other animals, can become savage for achieving his personal objectives. The character in ‘To Build a Fire’ contemplates the idea of killing the dog and tearing its belly so he could warm his hands.

On the same vein, the character in ‘White Silence’ lashes the dog mercilessly but regrets this before he dies. Besides, in both stories one comes across the instances of the writer showing the fierceness of nature through several narrative techniques. The description of the spittle freezing and breaking on the ground, in the first story, and the postulation in the latter that “Nature has many tricks wherewith she convinces man of his finity, — the ceaseless flow of the tides, the fury of the storm, the shock of the earthquake, the long roll of heaven’s artillery, — but the most tremendous, the most stupefying of all, is the passive phase of the White Silence” (London) are the best examples.

One major difference in the writing pattern in these stories is that ‘To Build a Fire’ resorts entirely to narrative and description to unfold the story. ‘White Silence’, on the other hand, includes a lot of dialogues. The reason is that the former contains only one human character while the latter has three. Another major contrast is the fact that as opposed to ‘Build the Fire,’ in the other story, London mentions race to signify the role of nature in human life. However, despite these dissimilarities, the pattern of writing in these stories is so conspicuous that even a cursive reading will reveal them.

Works Cited

London, Jack. To Build a Fire. The World of Jack London. 2008. Web.

London, Jack. The White Silence. The World of Jack London. 2008. Web.

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IvyPanda. ""To Build a Fire" and "White Snow" by Jack London." June 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/to-build-a-fire-and-white-snow-by-jack-london/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. ""To Build a Fire" and "White Snow" by Jack London." June 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/to-build-a-fire-and-white-snow-by-jack-london/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) '"To Build a Fire" and "White Snow" by Jack London'. 12 June.

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