Winter Break Annotation Assignment: The Cruelest Miles 1. “Allan left behind a vivid description of mushing in a blizzard. On the final ninety-mile stretch to Nome during the sweepstakes, his team was enveloped in ‘air thick as smoke with whirling snow. Gritty as salt it was, and stinging like splinters of steel. It baked into my furs and into the coats of my dogs, until we were encased in snow crusts solid as ice. The din deafened me. I couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. I felt as if the dogs and I were fighting all the devilish elements in the universe.’ Every fifteen minutes, Allan stopped his team and crawled up the gang line, putting a hand on each dog to bury themselves beneath the snow, but every time Allen reached the front of the team, he found the leader, Baldy, ‘sturdy and brave as a little polar bear... a small brave bit of life in that vast, storm-swept waste.... I’d melt the ice away from his face and hug him,’ and then fumble back to the sled. ‘I was so darned proud and happy over that pup I just couldn’t find the words to tell him what I thought of him,’ Allan said. Kaasen too would have trouble finding the words to describe the courage of his own leader, Balto” (Salisbury 221). In this passage, Salisbury uses a plethora of imagery to emphasize the harsh conditions of the arctic. His usage of figurative language, especially similes, such as “gritty as salt” and “thick as smoke” sets the scene so that the reader truly creates the image of an impossible, freezing tundra in their head. The author also bounces back and forth between figurative comparisons and plain, literal language in this excerpt, which creates a thorough understanding for the author’s situation. When Salisbury says the snow was “stinging like splinters of steel,” the reader automatically associates it with immense pain and discomfort; furthermore, when he says he and the dogs were literally "encased in snow crusts” shortly after, it shifts the reader’s mind to a more realistic perspective. As opposed to relating the severity of the situation to another the entire time, he only does so at the beginning to set the scene. Once the scene is set, he transforms from a figurative voice to an actual, clear narration. Salisbury also uses syntax as a vehicle in this passage by switching between complex and compound sentences and simple sentences. The longer more complex sentences are used when he includes figurative language and imagery, which allows for the setting and mood to be thoroughly explained and established. For example in the quote, “It baked into my furs and into the coats of my dogs, until we were encased in snow crusts solid as ice,” he explains the initial idea and goes further in depth, changing the sentence to complex. On the other hand, the quote” I couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe,” is precise and straight to the point. The repetition
Stagger2 eliminates the sugar coating as if the author is saying, “This is how I felt.”
Stagger3 2. “At any time of year, Nome was a distant place, a speck on the map of America’s last frontier, that vast territory of Alaska starching out over nearly 600,000 square miles – an area as big as England, France, Italy and Spain combined. At one end, in the southeast, were the capital, Juneau, and the territories year round ice-free ports. At the other end, to the northwest, was Nome. In all its parts, Alaska defied exaggeration. To the west, active volcanos spewed smoke over a a rugged North Paciffic Coast, and to the east, Glaciers the size of Rhode Island hovered above fjords. In the Interior, the heart of the territory, North America’s tallest peak, mount McKinley, reached up through the clouds over an endless expanse of timber. A traveler in the early 1900’s said that one would have to spend a lifetime in Alaska to fully understand it, to catch the seasons change over 4 climatic zones or to smell the sweet cold air as it hustled over the frozen sea. And perhaps, by the...
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