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The Cremation of Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee

by Robert Service

Man and the Natural World Theme

"The Cremation of Sam McGee" is written to tell a story about two guys and a cremation, but it’s also a story about a place. We get tons of really intense descriptions of what life is like in the Canadian Arctic. We hear about the stars, sled dogs, and trails, but, most of all, we hear about the freezing cold. The cold of winter is almost a character in this poem. The struggle against it makes up a big part of the excitement we feel when we read it.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Do you respect people who take risks in nature, like these guys did? Do you think it’s their fault if they get into trouble?
  2. Does the natural world seem beautiful or horrible in this poem?
  3. Why do you think Service spend so much time talking about the cold? Would just a line or two do the trick?
  4. Have you ever felt real, desperate cold? How did it make you feel and act? Do you think that Service did a good job of describing the way it feels?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Service manages to convey both the beauty and the terror of the Arctic winter, and that complex mixture gives extra force to the story of the two men.

The natural world is a cold, unfriendly and isolating place in this poem, which makes the speaker’s bond with Sam seem especially important.

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