Exploring and Analyzing

The text that I will be analyzing is the poem “The Cremation of Sam McGeethe Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service. Also one thing I should note is that my theme that I’m trying to pull out from this is exploration and in this case I’m more going for how it is portrayed.

The first question I thought of when reading this blog assignment was the question of how is exploration represented in this story. I believe that Robert service took great care to show the harsh truth of Alaska’s wilderness with in this poem. He makes it feel like Alaska is a force of its own and one that should not be reckoned with except for the brave and the bold. This poem itself is about a guy being frozen to death and asking (before he died of course) that he would be cremated. That alone doesn’t mean much about the harsh and unforgiving Alaska but near the end of the poem when we look in to the boiler we see Sam one last time and all he had to say was this:

“Please close that door.

It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—

Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

Throughout the entire poem we get the feeling that Alaska resembles somewhat of a living hell. The reading makes you feel like it is an experience that people wouldn’t believe even if you told them. The poem starts out with saying that the Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold. But of course this taking place around the time of the Alaskan gold rush, it was very relatable to travelers there. And in this case the only way to get a visual sense of what it was like out there is to say that the only way to be warm is to be cremated. And that is a powerful statement in itself.

In this story exploration isn’t necessarily represented as a negative thing. Rather The poem is more about the people who braved it (no matter how stupid they might be) and their social norm when mining for gold in Alaska.



3 thoughts on “Exploring and Analyzing

  1. This is a really, really good start. You do a lot of meaning-making for your reader and you also do a great job of focusing on the subject that you are interested in. For me, the most interesting part of this analysis is the last two paragraphs. I think you are saying a lot there and it would go a very long way to actually show your reader these things. Are there quotes that can really pull this out? What kind of terminology is the author using that gives you those feelings?


  2. I’m glad you chose such an Alaskan poem, and a popular one. The subject-focus is clear and the use of the closing lines was well done.
    I am wondering why you chose to describe the miners / explorers as ‘stupid.’ The story does not portray exploration or gold-mining as a negative thing, as you mentioned, but your use of the phrase ‘(no matter how stupid they might be)’ makes me as a reader wonder why you chose the poem if you have such a negative view of the characters (and by inference the people they represent.)


    • After reviewing the text and realizing that I did indeed put down the term stupid I now feel slightly stupid for using it in such a stupid way…
      All joking a side, I used the word stupid (on accident I might add) instead of some word like stubborn which would have worked just as well.

      But I feel the need to bring up that the word stupid isn’t necessarily a negative thing. For example, when breaking in to the comic industry many artists realize right away that in order to survive you need a mindset sometimes referred to as “stupid happy”. It means that you will probably be living in your parent’s basement, working part-time at a coffee shop and can’t afford things like play stations but hey, you’re making comics for a living and nothing can beat that.

      That is the same type of mindset that the miners needed. It’s the opportunity cost of living in a situation like in the poem over a nice warm house but hey, your digging for gold. My main problem here, as that you brought up, is that I didn’t clarify that.
      Thanks for bringing that up and I hope I answered your question.


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