"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.
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.