Stability of Characters in to Build a Fire and the Tell Tale Heart

Published: 2021-09-26 18:25:02
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Category: Fire, Build A Fire, Characters, Tell Tale Heart

Type of paper: Essay

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Henry James’ argues that a character is only as interesting as their responses to a particular situation, can be supported by using any written works that a student may encounter, given that the story has at least one character. I intend to prove that the instability of the main characters in each story will ultimately be their downfall. The story “To Build a Fire” by Jack London is about a man struggle with nature and his inability to trust his human instinct, and In Edgar Allen Poe’s story “The Tale-Tell Heart” is about a man who proclaims he is not crazy but plans and executes the murder of an old man.
In the beginning of “To build a Fire” the man realizes how cold the weather is outside but he only sees this as a fact and not a threat to his health. Jack London writes “As he turned to go on, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive crackle that startled him. He spat again. And again, in the air, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled in the air. Undoubtedly it was colder than fifty below-how much colder he did not know. But the temperature did not matter. ” (120) This is one example where the main character ignores his human instinct and doesn’t bring items that would cover his face and cheekbones.
Also read The Story of an Eyewitness Essay Analysis

Any man with common sense knows to bring the right items for the journey if he’s going to be traveling in weather that will be colder than fifty degrees below zero. While on this trip the man is accompanied by a dog that follows the man on his unadvised journey. The dog uses its natural instinct to outlive the man on this trip. The dog is a native husky and I believe represents pure instinct in this story in which the man doesn’t use at all. The dog knows to bite the ice off of his feet so that they do not become frozen from the harsh conditions.
He buries himself in the snow when the man cannot start a fire because his hands are too cold to pull his matches out of his pocket. With the dogs keen since of smell he knows when the man is dying and understands that the man wants to kill the dog so that he can insert his hands inside the dog’s carcass to warm him up. In this environment the dog is actually smarter than the man because he uses his natural instincts to stay warm and keep himself alive. In “ The Tale-Tell Heart” the narrator in which is assumed to be a man takes care of n old man who I perceived to be rich. For some strange reason, the narrator was obsessed with the old man’s eye. “It was open-wide, wide open-and i grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness- all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot. ”(414) The old man was going to be murder for his pale blue eye. For seven straight nights at midnight the eye was closed.
It wasn’t until the eight night when the narrator accidently woke the old man up and once the narrator saw that blue eye he began to grow furious and knew that that was the night he had to kill the old man. Normal people would have a look of disgust on their face after committing a murder, but the narrator smiled and then would try and convince himself that he was not mad. After murdering the old man the narrator begins to hear voices in his head. Those voices told him the eye was evil, and that he was doing the right thing. He would also hear a groan of terror many nights at midnight.
The narrator could also hear the old man’s heart, even after he had been murdered. It is impossible to hear a person’s heartbeat with the naked ear. He also thought the police officers were laughing at his horror of the heartbeat. The voices caused him to murder, and then caused him to give into the police when he easily could have gotten away with it. These two main characters both have obstacles to conquer in their own ways. In “To Build a Fire” the main character is fighting and resisting the obvious signs that tell him he should not make the trip in that inclement weather but proceeds anyway.
I believe that the man is so arrogant that it makes him ignorant. It seemed to me that the man felt like he was bigger and better than anyone on this planet and not even nature could endanger him. For that very reason was why the man could not make it to his destination, but the dog in which he tried to kill not only survived but also made it to the destination. In “The Tale-Tell Heart” instead of a fight with nature the narrator is fighting with the voice inside his head or yet another personality.
I believe that by day the narrator was a normal man who really cared about taking care of the old man, but by night his alter ego would kick in and basically talk control of his mind. That is why the story keeps going back and forth with trying to convince the reader of his sanity. Although both of the stories are different, the main character mind frames are both fragile and unstable. The may not be fighting the same fight but they are fighting something whether it be nature or the voices in there head. Throughout both of the stories the characters do thing that make the reader wonder. It just goes to show how unstable each character is.

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