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.