To Build Supertramp (Read Jack London)

To Build a Fire

In Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Chris McCandless is depicted as a multifaceted individual — idealist, reckless youth, aspirant, and scholar of existence. Although a multitude of factors contributed to McCandless’ perspective, Krakauer makes sure to honor the fact that his subject was an avid reader.

One of the greatest sources of inspiration for the force known as Alexander Supertramp was the work of Jack London. As a naturalist interested in the conflict between Man and his surroundings, London crafted pieces that explore what happens when an individual is thrust into survivalist situations. Needless to say, McCandless enjoyed these writings.

If you are a member of Junior Honors English, click the link for an extra-credit opportunity!


THE TASKRead Jack London’s short story To Build a Fire (click here for the PDF) and respond to the following prompts by using the “Leave a Reply” feature at the bottom of the page. For full (extra) credit, your responses must consist of complete sentences and demonstrate active engagement.


A) What are your overall thoughts about the story? How would you review it?

B) Select a passage from the text and analyze it closely. What about this passage moves you? Is there anything puzzling about this excerpt? Elaborate!

C) Having read TO BUILD A FIRE, what do you make of Supertramp’s fascination with Jack London?

3 thoughts on “To Build Supertramp (Read Jack London)

  1. 1) I really liked this story, and how detailed London was when he was writing it. His details made me feel as if I was walking along side the
    man and the dog. I could almost feel the intense coldness from the way he wrote.
    2) I found the passage about when the man plans to kill the dog and the dog could sense it. The dog could sense the danger around him, and knew not to approach the man. I found this interesting because it showed that even though the dog had no knowledge of the temperature or what the mans plan was, he knew what was safe for him.
    3) After reading To Build a Fire, it was very clear why Alex Supertramp was inspired by London. Reading thia short story was thrilling and realistic. Characteristics like these would be what caused Supertramp to explore the Alaskan Wilderness. The story also provided a challenge for Supertramp, to see if he could survive without making the same mistakes as the man in the short story.

  2. 1) I really enjoyed this short story. London is a very good writer, and as Mackenzie said, his details made the story that much more enjoyable. The depth of his details really make the story come to life.
    2) The passage I chose was the passage once the man built the fire and he started to think about the advice the old man on Sulphur Creek gave him. The old man told him not to travel alone especially in that cold of weather. The man keeps thinking to himself how he is too good and smart for the man because he built a fire and can survive. He is also contradicting himself the whole time through this part of the story because in the same paragraph he goes on to say that his hand are so numb that they cannot even feel anything he is holding and he did not even know that he was holding the sticks to fuel the fire.
    3) After reading To Build a Fire, the reasons why Supertramp looked up to and was fascinated by London became very clear. The short story’s details make the wilderness seem like an adventure that no one could resist! It is very easy to see why he went explore the Alaskan Wilderness. With the personality Supertramp had from reading Into the Wild, you can tell that he wanted to see if he could go in the wilderness and somehow do it better than the character in the story.

  3. 1. I like the story. It includes the perfect amount of detail and is very well written. The man’s point of view is effectively communicated while also including alternative points of view. I like the story although it is very simple and the plot is not extremely interesting.
    2. I am compelled by the passage where the man recalls the old man’s advice about traveling in the cold without a companion. This made me think of McCandless’s stubborn attitude about surviving alone in the wilderness. The old man can be compared to the many cynics who believe McCandless was just another unprepared young adult who believed he was invincible. Although the man did not have a human companion to aid him in building the fire, he did have a feline companion to keep him company (even if he had plans to kill him at one point). I think it’s interesting that the man felt it necessary to travel without a companion, against the advice of the old man, but traveling with the dog may have been what kept him sane.
    3. Supertramp’s fascination with Jack London is evident in the short story. The man and McCandless share many characteristics. They are both stubborn and fail to consider the advice of others. On the other hand, they are both very intelligent. I found it interesting that in the man’s most trying times he failed to trust his better judgment. I think McCandless’s greatest challenge was not surviving in the wilderness but maintaining his sanity during his weakest moments.

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