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Symbol Analysis

If the Yukon represents the cold, dark world of death and pain (sorry, too grim?) then Tennessee stands in for comfort, home, warmth, and the easy life. The only problem is that there isn't any gold in Tennessee. So, Sam hit the trail and headed north.

  • Line 9: This first image of Tennessee makes it sound a little like paradise – soft and warm and lovely. That’s the total opposite of the harsh, frozen world of the North. Service chooses to represent Tennessee with the cotton plant, which is an old symbolalliteration in the phrase: "blooms and blows."
  • of the American South. Readers might think of the famous song "Dixie" which starts: "Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton…" Also, be sure to check out the
  • Line 27: When Tennessee crops up again, the scene is a lot grimmer. Now, Sam is dying, and all he can do is mutter crazy things about Tennessee. It seems to us that Tennessee, in this poem at least, isn’t so much a real place as it is a kind of dream. It’s a fantasy of home, comfort, and warmth. It makes sense that Sam’s mind would roam to Tennessee while he was freezing to death.
  • Line 60: Good old Tennessee makes another quick cameo here. Turns out Sam is from a town called Plumtree, which isn’t a real place as far as we can tell. It doesn’t matter much in this case. The fictional town of Plumtree, like the state of Tennessee, is just standing in for "home" or "a place where it isn’t so darn cold!"

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