Naturalism gives a real worldview of "ordinary characters" that experience "raw and unpleasant" situations. Characters do not control their environment; the environment conditions and controls the characters. (Naturalism Handout) Stephen Crane and Jack London are both true naturalist authors. In Crane's "The Open Boat" and London's "To Build a Fire" (repr. In Nina Baym, The Norton Anthology of American Literature 1865-1914, Volume C, 6th ed. [New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003] 903, 977) the characters struggle with their environments. Issues of respect for nature and motivation to live are apparent in both stories.
Respecting nature is very important in both of these stories. In "The Open Boat" the correspondent and the rest of the men show great respect for the sea and the "walls of water" that the sea creates. (904) They know that the waves are capable of "swamping boats." (904) At the end of the story it states that "the wind brought the sound of the great sea's voice to the men on shore, and they felt that they could be interpreters." (919) The men do not show contempt for the journey, but seem to use it as a learning experience, and try to better themselves for it. The correspondent expresses this idea when he says that "he understands that if he were given another opportunity he would mend his conduct and his words, and be better and brighter during an introduction, or at tea." (917) .
The man in "To Build a Fire" is self absorbed and over confident and shows no respect for the surroundings in which he has just intruded upon. As "a newcomer in the land, a chechaquo" he disregards all signs and advise. (977) "The old-timer on Sulphur Creek" advised him "that no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below." (982) At the very beginning of his journey the man knows it is colder than fifty below, because he spits and "in the air, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackle[s].