THE WATCHING DOG The Animal Gaze in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”
This essay examines the role of the nameless dog in Jack London’s 1908 short story “To Build a Fire”. While it is a story previously studied for its naturalist and determinist themes, this essay turns the spotlight onto the dog as a significant character that should not be overlooked in readings of the story. With the help of literary human-animal studies and the writings of Jacques Derrida and John Berger, the essay shows the importance of the dog, and discusses how the dog resists notions of traditional canine symbolism. Special attention is given to the concept of the animal gaze, used in the story to question human authority and power. The reading shows that the dog possesses agency, making it a noteworthy literary character in its own right.