To Build a Fire: Pages 5-6
Summary (pages 5-6)
The man knows his cheeks will ‘frost’ and has some regret that he ‘had not devised a nose strap of the sort Bud wore in cold snaps’. He then thinks that ‘frosted cheeks’ are only ‘a bit painful’ and ‘were never serious’.
Although his mind is empty of thoughts, he is observant. He notices where he places his feet most of all, as well as the changes in the creek. He knows springs never freeze and can be like traps when walking on the creek. He moves back several steps when he realizes the ice has given under his feet. He knows that to get his feet wet in this temperature means ‘trouble and danger’ and if this happened he would have to stop and build a fire.
He avoids this spring and comes across others in the next two hours. At one point, he forces the dog to go in front and the ice breaks. The dog gets clear and tries to lick the ice that forms on his paws and legs. The man takes off his mitten to help, but after a minute his hand is numb.
At noon, the sky is still clear with no sun and at half past twelve he reaches the forks in the creek.
Analysis (pages 5-6)
The perilous environment is given more focus here as the man walks along the frozen creek. The main threat comes with the springs that never freeze, because if his feet are soaked there is the danger that they too will freeze if he does not build a fire in time to dry them off.
The man’s lack of preparation for this trip is also emphasised at this point as he has some regrets that he has not had the foresight to devise a protector for his face.