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Free Example of Tradition of Literary Naturalism Essay

The two short stories "to build a fire" and "the open boat “details man's struggle for survival in a harsh and unforgiving weather they found themselves in. “To Build a Fire” chronicles the consequences of a young man who went against warning not to travel in the Alaskan wilderness alone during a very cold and severe weather. Tom Vincent as the young man is referred to, starts his journey to join his partners. Though he was alert and careful all along, he accidentally breaks through a patch of thin ice and soaks his feet with freezing water which requires him to make a small fire to warm himself.

Unfortunately the fire is extinguished by falling snow and fails to build another fire in his subsequent attempts. However, he held’s on to the hunting camp and finds it empty when he arrives devastating him. Tom’s desire for life spurred him to build another fire but in the process burns his hands. He finally starts a fire and warms his hands and feet. Tom finally panics and loses feeling in his hands and feet. He considers killing the dog which was his companion, but he did not succeed. He later runs on his frozen feet gets exhausted accepts his fate and falls into the snow causing his death.

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“The Open Boat” describes men aboard a small boat on a rough sea all fighting for their survival, the cook, is bailing water out of the bottom of the boat to avoid sinking, the oiler, who is rowing with one or being assisted by an unnamed correspondent and the captain, who lies injured (Stephen, 2005).

They all stare intently at the waves threatening to swamp the boat and the potential loss of life along with it. However, the captain reassures the men that “we’ll get ashore all right” after spotting a barely visible lighthouse an indicator that they are approaching shore. The boat capsizes and the men swim towards the land though one of them dies. Unfortunately the lighthouse appears deserted giving the men very little hope for survival because they knew that they will only grow weaker with the passage of time and in their state they exchange “addresses and admonitions.” Help seems far from coming their way, though they finally gets help and the three living men are fed and tended.

The two stories contains literary naturalism since they emphasizes the role of a harsh environment upon human characters. The nature is portrayed as uncaring, presenting not even a single sign for man looks for signs of harsh ending in the universe (Elliot, 1998).

According to the two short stories man has no purpose in nature. In the short story "The Open Boat," Stephen Crane portrays the unforgiving and relentless sea that is naturally uncaring. The greatest disadvantage with the sea is that after successfully surmounting one wave there is always another behind it ready to do something effective in the way of boats despite the fact that the occupants in the lifeboat are extremely tired and that death stairs straight at them (Stephen, 2005).

Nature, in this case the sea becomes totally uncaring. In the "to build a fire" the fire does very little to change the condition of the young man who is threatened by death due to the unforgiving and totally uncaring nature of the weather.

The central motif of “To Build a Fire” and “The Open Boat” concerns the struggle of man versus nature. The protagonist of both stories dies due to a lack of intuition or imagination; they are totally unable to conceive of the possibility of their own death. The consequences on the protagonist were no better or worse than the one that preceded them because the nature’s uncaring nature is not selective but in case anyone presents themselves to the same weather or to the raging sea waves the consequences are almost determined and death is always a stone throw away (James, 1980). But during other times when these extreme conditions are none existence the story is usually an happy one with no threat to life and always individuals do not require to be saved from whatever situation and the weather presents itself as very friendly to mankind.

In my opinion, the protagonist could have changed the course of events. In the short story “To Build a Fire” if the protagonist's should have got advice of his planned dangerous expedition during an extreme weather condition and it all he was to set out for the experience got an accompaniment in case he faced problems out there which he never did. He could as well have opted to change the timing to a time when the weather becomes friendlier. The four men who set out to sail in the “The Open Boat” only met an uncertain situation that was indeed hard to predict but in the event that they discovered that the sea waves were becoming more severe the men should have changed their course and turned back saving them from the unforeseen harsh and unforgiving sea (Elliot, 1998).

The endings of "to build a fire" and "the open boat" are both very tragic because precious life is lost in both cases that could otherwise have been saved if proper measures to avoid them. All the characters seem to struggle for their survival amidst the unforgiving state they found themselves in. though some die in the process the nature remains just a harsh place to be in which no mercy to everyone therein.

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