James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal (JMURJ)


Scholarly examinations of naturalism in Jack London’s 1908 short story “To Build a Fire” often overlook the influence of the socialist political movement. After surveying the American Socialist Party movement and London’s activism in “How I Became a Socialist,” this essay uses the frame of Marxist rhetorical criticism to inspect sociopolitical themes in London’s famous story. London’s critiques of Individualism in “How I Became a Socialist” parallel one of his concerns in “To Build a Fire” as his unnamed protagonist progresses through the Yukon with the larger ideals of American society and the capitalist economy guiding his actions. Although masculinity, individualism, environmental dominance, and capitalist commodification lead the character to believe he can succeed, his slow death represents an implicit critique of Western culture and its ideologies