How To Use This Discussion Guide
Materials Included | Begin by reading Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” on our site or in your copy of What So Proudly We Hail.
Materials for this guide include background information about the author and discussion questions to enhance your understanding and stimulate conversation about the story. In addition, the guide includes a series of short video discussions about the story, conducted by William Schambra (Hudson Institute) with the editors of the anthology. These seminars help capture the experience of high-level discourse as participants interact and elicit meaning from a classic American text. These videos are meant to raise additional questions and augment discussion, not replace it.
Learning Objectives | Students will be able to:
- Explore the strengths and weaknesses of American individualism and independence by considering Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” in relation to the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence;
- Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it
- Cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text
- Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development
- Summarize the key supporting details and ideas
- Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text
- Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone
- Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence
- Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
- Is the man in “To Build a Fire” recognizably or typically American? After reading the story, write an explanatory essay that addresses the question and analyzes traits that you would consider to be typically American, providing examples to clarify your analysis. What conclusions or implications can you draw?
- What is, and what should be, our attitude toward the natural world, especially if nature is indifferent to human beings and often hostile to our purposes? After reading “To Build a Fire,” write an essay that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text.
- Is the man a hero or a fool?—or something else? What if he had made it back to camp? After reading “To Build a Fire,” write an essay that discusses your view of the man and evaluates his actions. Be sure to support your position with evidence from the text.