The Importance of Setting in Jack Londons “To Build a Fire” and Kate Chopins “The Storm” Paper
A good writer’s depiction of setting positions the reader right into the story. In “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, the setting plays a significant role throughout the entire short story. London uses certain techniques to establish the atmosphere of the story. By introducing his readers to the setting, prepares them for a tone that is depressed and frightening. Isolated by the hostile environment of the Yukon in sub-freeing temperatures, a man falls victim to the unrelenting and unforgiving power of nature, London shows us how the main character of the story is completely unaware of his surroundings.
The only world the man is truly accustomed to is his own. Never being exposed to such a harsh climate draws one to conclude that the environment is the determining factor of his survival, as well as his dog’s too. Anything that the man and his dog come into contact with creates an anticipation for disaster in the story. In Kate Chopins’ “The Storm,” the setting in this story creates the perfect environment for an adulterous affair. Chopin not only creates the perfect setting but also uses the setting as a symbol of the affair.
The presence of the storm is not merely coincidental. It is the driving force behind the story and the affair. As the storm begins, climaxes and ends so does the affair and the story. From the opening we see that Chopin intends to use the storm to move the story forward. Jack Londons “To Build A Fire,” takes place on a trail in the Yukon. This setting is vital to the story because nature, the cold and the snow become the main character’s worst enemy. The first two paragraphs are devoted to the story’s setting and forthcoming action.
It is clear that it is mid-winter in the Arctic during a cold snap, that the man is traveling alone, and that he is about to veer from the established route to his destination (“the main trail” along the Yukon) to take a seldom used but shorter trail across country. The day is clear, but at this latitude and season the sun remains below the horizon, and thus “there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark. ” The man, however, “did not worry” about the absence of the sun, since he knows that it will reappear in a few days.
But, we realize almost immediately, the man has only a superficial knowledge of the Arctic. As he stands on a bank of the Yukon about to plunge into an almost absolute wilderness, he has little or no understanding either of his immense isolation relative to his surroundings or of the extreme danger posed by the cold snap. But all of this, London comments at the beginning of the third paragraph, “The mysterious, far-reaching hair-line trail, the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it all, made no impression on the man. Thus, the man also knows, in addition to the fact the sun will reappear, that it is fifty degrees below zero, but he does not know the meaning of this fact, it portends death for anyone who makes himself vulnerable to its ability to kill. “Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a thought that never entered his head. ” During his journey, the man gets his feet wet as he falls through the ice into the water of a hot spring. Because of the severity of the cold, the man’s life depends upon his ability to adapt to his surroundings.
After one, half-successful fire-starting endeavor, and several other pitiful attempts, the hopelessness of the man’s lone struggle against the hostile environment of the Yukon begins to become apparent, and the man at last “grows calm and decides to meet death with dignity. ” Setting is important to this story, without it, the reader would not learn of the common ignorant human behavior when it comes to survival in an indifferent environment. The setting does not regard the man as important and is unconcerned with his suffering and death.
Chopin uses setting to not only influence the reader’s senses, but also, to illustrate the actions and feelings of her characters, to thrust the reader into the sense of being in the storm that is baring down on her characters. This story takes place in a small town located in Louisiana, At Friedheimer’s store, but the most important setting is Calixta and Bobinot’s home, when Bobinot is not there. The home itself isn’t described that much: it has a “Small front gallery… dining room, the sitting room, the general utility room, and a bedroom that holds a “white, monumental bed” and looked “dim and mysterious”.
The story begins with Bobinot and Bibi inside the local store. As they attempt to leave they notice storm clouds approaching the town. Deciding to wait out the storm, they remain inside. Meanwhile, Calixta is at home sewing and unaware of the storm. Soon realizing the storm is approaching, she begins frantically running about the house closing windows and doors and retrieving clothes left on the porch. Setting in this story is the catalyst to the passion that occurs between Alcee and Calixta. The storm occurs just as Alcee rides by. The storm forces Alcee and Calixta into the house.
Chopin describes the lovers’ passion within the storm, “They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms. Even as the storm was intense, as was the lovers’ passion so as the storm begins to tire itself out so do the lovers. The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly on the shingles, inviting them to drowsiness and sleep. As the storm ends and the land is renewed, The rain was over and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a place of gems,” so it seems is the characters’ relationships.
The setting of this story seems to act as a catalyst for these two individuals to look back at their past together and to relive it. Alcee and Calixta are not only trapped in the house during the storm, they almost seem forced into the bedroom, pushed into each other’s arms and then onto the bed. The storm almost seems to have more of a presence than the house. The storm is taking place during the important sexualized scene, keeping Alcee and Calixta within the house, and Bobinot and Bibi outside of it. When the storm dissipates, Alcee and Calixta must go their separate ways, seemingly much richer for their encounter.
When Bobinot reenters his own home, he has no idea of the torrid encounter that just happened there. The storm serves as a plot device. Had Calixta’s husband and son not been caught in a storm, Alcee and she would not have been able to have their torrid affair in Calixta’s home (and in her and her husband’s bed, no less). Every storm creeps upon us, hits a luminous climax, and then fades away into nothingness. Chopin accurately depicts the way that a storm can happen in a person s life. She uses symbolism to depict the feelings of the relationships, which are as unpredictable as that of this raging storm.
The setting in this story creates the perfect environment for an adulterous affair. No matter what type of literature is being read, setting always plays a key element in producing the desired effect. Jack London’s short story To Build A Fire,” and Kate Chopins “The Storm,” provide excellent examples of this. In Londons’ story, The setting is one of the northernmost most areas of the earth, the Yukon. This setting brings a sense of harsh reality and an idea of how fragile the human body is to the piece. “The Storm” by Kate Chopin revolves around a setting that is both exciting and enticing.
Chopin’s portrayal of the storm’s setting reinforces the plot’s main thematic elements through descriptive imagery that coincides with the characters emotions throughout the story. The characters in this story, Alcee and Calixta, each make their own best of the situation as the storm hits. The storm is described as a violent one, with thrashing winds and blinding rain. The cracking of the thunder is frightening to Calixta, and jump-starts an emotional reunion between her and Alcee. Without these settings, the purpose of the stories in itself are demolished. As well, no events in the stories may have even happened.