Naturalism

Both, Jack London’s, “To Build a Fire” and Stephen Crane’s, The Red Badge of Courage are stories written about naturalism and survival - Naturalism introduction. In both, nature has no concern for those wandering through it and the forces are beyond their control. Survival is also seen in both stories, but in “To Build a Fire” the man does not survive and nature gets the best of him. In The Red Badge of Courage, nature helps shape the youth into the man, which he has aspired to be. Naturalism is very evident in London’s “To Build a Fire”. The entire story happens in the everlasting realm of nature.

The man is traveling through the frozen land and does not take the advice of an “old-timer”. Nature has no concern for the man or his well-being. Elements of naturalism are evident from the first lines of the story. “Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray”, the narrator begins the story showing how unpleasant nature can be and that it doesn’t think of anyone. Nature continues on its own path, disregarding what goes on. The man believes that he can outsmart nature and tries to make it to camp all alone in fifty below freezing temperature.

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He is proud and believes he will not need a partner, but because of the struggles he faces with nature he does not survive and nature demonstrates that there is no way to throw it off its course. The element of survival is also demonstrated in “To Build a Fire”. It is far below freezing temperatures, and the man believes he has the experience to make it on his own. The old timer has told him many times that it is unwise to travel alone but he does not take his advice. He decides that he would be alright on his own with the dog.

He does not have the proper tools or equipment to make it to camp. Nature does not pity him when he begins his demise. Nature only allows survival of the fittest and because the man was not properly prepared, he does not survive. Just like “To Build a Fire”, The Red Badge of Courage has many examples of naturalism. Stephen Crane even incorporates nature into his book as a character, not just part of the background. In his work, nature is indifferent; “the cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and retiring fogs revealed an army stretched among the hills, resting. Nature goes about its usual business, not caring about the army passing through it or anything else for that matter. This gives the youth a new perspective. He realizes that he is not the most important person out there; he is simply part of a much bigger whole. He also understands that nature is pure and goes on forever without any concerns. These realizations begin to shape the youth into the person he wants to become. Survival is one of the main themes in The Red Badge of Courage.

With the ongoing Civil War, it is a goal of the youth to come out alive and with a “red badge of courage. ” When he enlisted in the army, his mom tried to talk him out of it and tell him that he did not understand the consequences but he went anyway. Henry, the youth, did not fully grasp the concept of war until he began fighting. He did not know how cruel and ruthless the war could be. After the youth experienced the cruelty of battle, he understood that death was not all that bad. Survival was still important to him, but he did not have a problem facing death.

He knew that “death is but death”, and there was nothing he could do to change it. The Red Badge of Courage and “To Build a Fire” share their most important elements. They are written using naturalism and survival is intertwined in both stories. The main characters are affected by nature in good and bad ways. Only one survives, the other has his demise by the hands of nature. The other one gains life experience from the time he spends exposed to nature and becomes who he has always aspired to be.

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