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Nature and Naturalism. Brief Quiz on “Traveling Through the Dark” and “Sleeping in the Forest”. What is the hard choice the speaker has to make in “Traveling Through the Dark”? True or False: The speaker in “Sleeping in the Forest” is afraid of being alone in the forest at night. .

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Brief quiz on traveling through the dark and sleeping in the forest
Brief Quiz on “Traveling Through the Dark” and “Sleeping in the Forest”

  • What is the hard choice the speaker has to make in “Traveling Through the Dark”?

  • True or False: The speaker in “Sleeping in the Forest” is afraid of being alone in the forest at night.


Quick start questions
Quick start questions “Sleeping in the Forest”

  • All three of these pieces we read for today ("To Build a Fire" (handout), "Traveling through the Dark" p. 657, "Sleeping in the Forest" p. 654) have some similarities. What were they? What connections can you see between them?

  • Write about a time when you have been "exposed to the elements" or otherwise experienced the power of nature. Did it influence the way you think about nature? Can you relate your experience to one of the works we read for today?


Background information on jack london
Background information on Jack London “Sleeping in the Forest”

  • Jack London spent time on the very creek that was the man's destination “To Build a Fire” in November of 1897, hoping to find gold during the Klondike Gold Rush, which began with the discovery of gold in the Klondike (an area in Alaska) in 1896. Many men rushed north thinking to make their fortunes and found cold, bitter weather and inhospitable terrain they weren't prepared for instead.


Miners climbing chilkoot pass
Miners climbing Chilkoot Pass “Sleeping in the Forest”


Jack london and naturalism
Jack London and Naturalism “Sleeping in the Forest”

London belonged to the “Naturalist” school of writers.

"Naturalism assumes that humans have little if any control over what happens. Rather, things happen to people, who are at the mercy of a variety of external and internal forces…" from The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms

Another characteristic of Naturalist writing is its lack of commentary on the events of the story.

How is “To Build a Fire” a “Naturalist” story? Do you think that “Traveling Through the Dark” fits this definition as well?


Jack london and naturalism1
Jack London and Naturalism “Sleeping in the Forest”

Naturalism is related to the idea of “determinism.”

From the Stanford Philosophy Encyclopedia: "Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature."

In other words, every event happens because it must. How does this apply to human thought and action in the works we read for today?


Questions to consider
Questions to consider: “Sleeping in the Forest”

  • In “To Build a Fire,” is the man's fate inevitable? What events let up to his certain demise? At what point was his fate sealed?

  • In “Traveling Through the Dark” what events “necessitate” (cause to be necessary) the speaker’s actions at the end of the poem?


Nature as a source of self knowledge
Nature as a source of self-knowledge? “Sleeping in the Forest”

  • In all of these works, the speaker or main character experiences an epiphany, a moment of realization. What does each of these characters know at the end of his/her work that he/she did not know at the beginning? What did he/she have to go through to get there?


Attitudes towards nature
Attitudes Towards Nature “Sleeping in the Forest”

  • If you had to describe these three authors' attitudes toward nature, what would you say about each of them?

  • How does the relationship between the man and the dog change over the course of the short story, and what do you think that says about London’s attitude towards “human” intelligence?


Sleeping in the forest
“Sleeping in the Forest” “Sleeping in the Forest”

  • Both “To Build a Fire” and “Traveling in the Dark” are about humans in direct contact with nature – and so is "Sleeping in the Forest" p. 654. However, this last poem is quite different in how it deals with the connections between humanity and nature. How?