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Existentialism - Essay Example

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In that case, there are elements of existentialism in both pop and high culture such as films, novels and paintings among others. Existentialism is a cultural and philosophical movement that the experiences of an individual are the defining point of all philosophical thinking (Flynn 145). Therefore, in a short story such as ‘To Build a Fire’ by Jack London, it is about the unfortunate tale of a man who falls victim to the power of nature. This happens when he goes for an expedition to a wild environment in Yukon with sub-freezing temperatures. The man struggles against the hostility of the weather when his feet get wet through the ice that is found in water including a hot freezing point. Therefore, in order to save himself, it is upon man to generate some warmth by lighting a fire to prevent his feet from freezing. On that brief account, the theme of existentialism is depicted in the inability of man to extricate him from the turbulent forces of nature. In other words, the man is in a cruel habitat with indifference in terms of according him peace and harmony. It thus compels him to accept the meaningless and indignity of nature. The man finally resigns to fate and discovers that nature is powerful and the only mercy is to play his role of protecting himself. Alternatively, it is imperative to note that there are several existentialistic themes discussed by Jack London in the short story. For example, there is the theme of despair that is apparent in the inability of the man to control nature. The man develops a deep dread of lighting a fire after his legs become wet because the forces of nature are extremely powerful. However, in the philosophical study of existentialism, despair is an inborn part of a human being despite the motivating forces of the feeling. In his book Works of Love, Kierkegaard notes “…Lovingly to hope all things is the opposite of despairingly to hope nothing at all” (Flynn 246). This suggests that irrespective of the feelings of the man at the moment of being overwhelmed by nature, there is nothing substantial he can do to avoid the feelings of despair. Furthermore, the state of despair is noted when the raging snow in Yukon extinguishes his fire and becomes apprehensive that he may lose his toes because of the tormenting frostbites. Afterwards, he decides to gather grass and twigs to try and light another fire despite the numbness of his frozen fingers. Later, the man lapses into a state of angst that leads him to do some desperate moves to help him. Therefore, this leads to another fundamental theme of existentialism that deals with anger or angst. According to the famous proponents of existentialism such as Camus and Sartre, angst may also take the designs of anxiety or anguish, and it means the freedom to do anything because the choice is human responsibility. In the story, after the man discovers that he cannot light a fire with frozen fingers, the available freedom of choice compels him to collect all his matches and set them all ablaze. This angst also leads him to raze a piece of bark including his own hands in the last anguish to save him from the terrible desperation. This is what Jean Sartre notes in his essay “Existentialism is a Humanism” as “…man is in anguish, meaning that he who chooses cannot escape a deep responsibility ...Show more


Name: Instruction: Task: Date: Existentialism There are different and interesting aspects of existentialism that reflect on the life of human beings. This begins with the feelings of anger, despair, absurdity and facticity among others. Therefore, according to famous existentialists such as Jean Sartre, Albert Camus and Soren Kierkegaad, existentialism is a philosophy that its existence comes before essence…
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Existentialism essay example
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