To Build a Fire: Pages 15-16
Summary (pages 15-16)
The man manages to grab hold of the dog and puts his arms around its body. He pulls it down into the snow, but cannot kill it as he cannot reach his knife or throttle it. He releases it and the dog runs away wildly with its tail between its legs. From forty yards away, it looks back at the man.
The man looks down at his hands ‘to locate them’ and thinks how strange it is that he has to use his eyes to do this. He waves his arms and beats his hands against his body, but no feeling returns this time. He fears death and knows this is no longer just about losing his fingers and toes, or his hands and feet.
He begins to run in panic and the dog joins him. The man thinks how if he runs to the camp he might be saved. At the same time, he thinks the camp is too far away and he is already freezing. He tries to push the latter thought to the back of his mind. He finds it strange that he can run when he cannot feel his feet. He remembers seeing a winged Mercury and wonders if Mercury felt as he does ‘skimming over the earth’.
He cannot run far, though, as he does not have the endurance. When he falls, he fails to rise. He sits and feels ‘quite warm and comfortable’.
Analysis (pages 15-16)
The rising panic that the man experiences is indicated when he begins to run. This is also contrary to the advice given to him by the old-timer, as he told the man not to run with wet feet as this would lead to being frozen. By depicting the man running, the narrative highlights the level of desperation he has reached.