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The Cremation of Sam McGee
The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert Service

Speaker Point of View

Who is the speaker, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

Alright, so we only see this working one way. In our minds, the speaker has to be a bow-legged skinny old guy, with a voice like gravel on a tin roof. He’d need a big white mustache and a cigar chomped between his teeth. He’d have a twangy southern accent and maybe a missing finger on his right hand that he won’t talk about. Some poems could have all kinds of speakers, but for one like this, a ballad of life and death on the frontier, well it just wouldn’t work with anyone but this guy. Try to imagine someone else telling this story: an English aristocrat, a French ballet teacher, a computer programmer? We just don't see it. There has to be some trail dirt left on our speaker’s clothes, and a voice and a face that lets us know he’s lived hard, seen a lot, and survived to tell the tale.

But maybe that's just us. The poem doesn't give us many clues about the speaker. How do you picture him?

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