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The Cremation of Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee

by Robert Service

Perseverance Theme

The speaker of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" shows a lot of guts in sticking to his promise. It would have been easy for him to just dump Sam’s body after he died, or at least to bury it fast and get on with his life. But he takes his promise seriously, and turns Sam’s cremation into a kind of mission. Even when the weather and hunger and exhaustion stack up against him, he keeps going and gets the job done. He’s like a sled-riding Nike ad!

Questions About Perseverance

  1. Do you admire the way the speaker sticks to his promise? Would you have forgiven him if he’d given up on the plan to cremate Sam?
  2. What do you think makes him keep going? Is it fear, guilt, love, a sense of honor? What clues do we get?
  3. Do you think Sam is less determined than the speaker? Does the poem make him seem weak?
  4. The poem tells us that these men came up north to hunt for gold. Does that make them seem more greedy than brave? Does it change your feelings about them?

Chew on This

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

Over the course of the poem, perseverance becomes a tool that helps the speaker to survive his ordeal and maintain his sanity.

The poem makes a comparison between Sam’s weakness and the speaker’s strength as a way of emphasizing the importance of perseverance.

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