Jack London spent some time as a prospector in the Klondike. He was aware of how dangerous ignorance could be in such harsh conditions. “To Build a Fire” reflects London’s experience with many foolish prospectors who died from the cold and of malnutrition. The contextual information suggests why the unnamed prospector in the story might have been overconfident: He was new to the area and might have been misled by popular and sensational accounts of the gold rush. These accounts depicted the prospectors as heroes discovering new frontiers and making their own fortunes. They did not describe the suffering of life in the Canadian wilderness. Contextual information also helps us understand the author’s purpose: to expose the truth about the dangerous conditions faced by prospectors during the Klondike gold rush. London informs his readers of what exactly prospecting involves and the importance of knowing the dangers of the environment and one’s own limits.