A man travels in the Yukon on an extremely cold morning with a husky wolf-dog

A man travels in the Yukon on an extremely cold morning with a husky wolf-dog. The man knows it’s cold but thinks nothing of it. As it grows colder, he realizes his unprotected cheekbones will freeze, but he does not pay it much attention. Part way through his journey the man falls through the snow at a creek and gets wets to his shins. The man remebers advice from an old timer and knows he must build a fire. The man then proceeds in starting a fire to dry his foot-gear. His fingers and feet are already numb but he thinks nothing of it because he has fire.

While the man is taking off his moccasins clumps of snow fall off the tree above his fire and put it out. The man gets scared because he is numb and his fire is out. He quickly sets out to build a new fire but is unsuccesful because his hands are frozen and numb.

The man then decides to kill his dog so he can put his hands inside its warm body to warm them up. He gets hold of the dog but because his hands are frozen he cannot get to his knife to kill the dog. so he lets it go. The man finally realizes he may die and panics. He begins running along the trail and runs untill he can’t run anymore and falls from exaustion.

He realizes he is going to die and decides he should meet death in a more dignified manner.

The man falls off into a comfortable sleep. The dog who has been by his side the whole time even after the man tried to kill it does not understand why the man is sitting in the snow like that without making a fire. As the night comes, the dogcomes closer and detects death in the man’s scent. It runs away in the direction of the camp, “where all the other food-providers and fire-providers are”

This story is written in third person. It is written in third person for a very specific reason. It makes the character of the story imporsonal and anonymous. IN this story it is very important that the mans enviroment be the main focus of the piece. The author uses much more narritive than charcter to convey this point and uses much less character development. the reader only ocasionally gets insight into the inner workings of the mans mind.


The Man: The man remains un-named threw out the entire story. The man is purposely not given a name. By not giving a name to the man the focus is more on the enviroment and setting of the story. This allows the impact the enviroment has on the man to be seen more clearly since the man is anonymous. This makes the reader almost not seem to care about the man or make any moral judgements about him. The author is nuetral towards the man because his story is less about a man , but more of the man representing humanity as a whole against nature.

The Dog: The dog is a symbol of pure instinct in the story and is used to show how man requires products of modern civilization–warm clothing, matches, maps, thermometers and other tools to protect him and becausethese products ignores his instinct. The author uses this symbol to show the lack of intinct on the mans part and how even though the man is inteligent he uses his intelligence un wisely.

The fire is used as a metaphor after the snow puts out the fire and the man must try to build the fire again. The author writes “He cherished the flame carefully and awkwardly. It was life” The author uses this to show how the fire dictates whether the man will live or die and shows the man is dicated by the power of nature.

A simile is used a page later after the man had failed in his attempt to make the fire. the author compares the mans hands to weights when he writes ” he had an impression that they hung like weights on the end of his arms” the author uses this simile to show the uselessness of the mans hands because they are numb and frozen.

After the man falls into the water the author adds the line “he was angy, and cursed his luck aloud”. The authors diction here by using the word “luck” implies the situation was out of the mans control. The author also uses the word “accident” to describe the situation. This also implies it seems fate and the man could not have avoided it.

Later after the the snow fell from the tree and put out the fire the author uses an antithesis in the line “his own fault or, rather, his mistake.” The word “fault” implies free will and the mans choice and the consequences of it while the word “mistake” like “Accident” implies that it was out of his control.

the diction used by the author in these two examples shows how the author makes nature and the enviroment the controling factor, and that the man is dictated by the will of nature.

The controling image of “fifty degrees below zero” that runs through out the piece. The term “fifty degrees below zero” is the danger zone and is repeated many times in the story.

In the first paragraph of the story the sun is personified as a “cheerful orb, due south” This works in that it re-enforces the importance of nature and the enviroment in the story, by describing the sun and enviroment in much greater detail and giving the enviroment more “life” than the man who is anonymous.

The tree that the snow fell from is also personified when the author writes “Each time he had pulled on a twig he had communicated a slight agitation to the tree – an imperceptible agitation, so far as he was concerned, but an agitation sufficient to bring about the disaster.” This keeps the reader focused on the enviroment and nature, and less on the man.

The man has an epiphany in the story when the snow falling from the tree blots out the fire the author writes, “He was shocked. It was as though he had heard his own sentence of death.” the man finally came to the realization that he could die. This is used show that the mans actions and thoughts are dicated by his enviroment.

there are a few rhetorical shifts, the first being the author describing the trail and various distances to destinations down the trail then saying “But all this – the mysterious, far-reaching hair-line trail, the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it all – made no impression on the man.” This is used to show indeference of the man and the author to the man and show the importance of the enviroment in the story. This gives the reader a sense of power the enviroment has over the man.

The next rhetorical shift in the very next paragrahp serves to strengthen the message fo the last shift. The shift happens when the author is describing how the mans spit freezes in the air as it falls to the ground, and that it is “undoubtedly colder than fifty below”-but the temperature did not matter.

The literary style used by the author and the use of building the narrative rather than the character really works in bringing the message accross to the reader. By focusing less on building the character we can see the auhtors comparison to mankind as whole much easier. In personifiying and builidng the enviroment the author relays to the reader the sense that mans actions are dictated by his enviroment. This really realy the message that man has no free will and that nature has already mapped his fate. By using the words “luck” and “accident” the contrasting “fault” with “mistake” the author succeeded in showing gray area in the man’s responsibility; while he should have anticipated the results of his actions, and thus be held liable, he did not, so he cannot be held liable. All together the authors literary style really brought the piece together and made it work.

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