To Build a Fire

The Boys Symbol Icon
“The boys” are how the man refers to his traveling companions who he’ll meet up with at the end of a day of solo travel. The boys, who never appear within the space of the story, but who repeatedly appear in the man’s thoughts, function as a symbol, rather than as characters. This generic group represents many things to the man: his destination, security, comfort, and companionship. His focus on the boys evolves over the course of the story as his circumstances change. He looks forward to reaching the boys. He is disappointed when he stumbles into the water because it will delay his arrival at the camp to meet the boys. He imagines the boys finding his dead body and feels, as he dies, that he no longer belongs in their group. The boys symbolize an unattainable goal of “civilization,” a space that is controlled by humans. The man is not with the boys because he is in nature, alone. Nature, the opposite of the boys, presents physical threats, isolation, and indifference.

The Boys Quotes in To Build a Fire

The To Build a Fire quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Boys. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Instinctual Knowledge vs. Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam Classics edition of To Build a Fire published in 1986.
To Build A Fire Quotes

Later, the dog whined loudly. And still later it crept close to the man and caught the scent of death. This made the animal bristle and back away. A little longer it delayed, howling under the stars that leaped and danced and shone brightly in the cold sky. Then it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food-providers and fire-providers.

Related Characters: The dog
Related Symbols: The Boys, Fire
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Boys Symbol Timeline in To Build a Fire

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Boys appears in To Build a Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
To Build A Fire
Instinctual Knowledge vs. Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
The Power of Imagination Theme Icon
...than fifty degrees below zero. The man is hiking alone toward Henderson Camp to meet the boys , his traveling companions. He plans to arrive by six o’clock, when it’ll be dark,... (full context)
Fight for Survival vs. Acceptance of Death Theme Icon
The Power of Imagination Theme Icon
...his feet from freezing, to reach the camp. If only he could get there, then the boys would take care of him. But he also starts to think that he’ll never reach... (full context)
Instinctual Knowledge vs. Scientific Knowledge Theme Icon
Fight for Survival vs. Acceptance of Death Theme Icon
The Power of Imagination Theme Icon
The man imagines the boys finding his frozen body after searching for him the next day. He pictures them on... (full context)