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The Cremation of Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee

by Robert Service

Mortality Theme

Even when "The Cremation of Sam McGee" is being funny, it never gets very far away from the theme of death. It’s all about the reality of death, how it happens, and how you deal with the aftermath. Service takes us through all the stages of death and dying. Actually, we think it’s pretty amazing he could make a subject like this funny at all.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Do you think this poem is making fun of a serious subject, or does it show respect for death and the dead?
  2. Why does the speaker spend so much time talking about the corpse? What do those gory details add to the poem?
  3. Do you think it was fair for Sam to make the speaker promise to cremate him? Can you imagine what you would do in a situation like that?
  4. What’s up with the resurrection at the end? Is it just a joke, or do you think it has some deeper meaning? Was Sam ever really and truly dead?

Chew on This

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

While it deals with the subject in a funny way, this is really a poem about the importance of respecting the dead and treating them with care.

Even though the ending of the poem is funny, the image of a man rising from the flames has a serious mythical power that gives the final lines real strength.

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