Themes in the Cremation of Sam Mcgee

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The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service is an incredible example of a narrative ballad. It tells it’s story through internal and external rhyming couplets
Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.

Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows. (Service)

with a cadence which holds true through out the whole poem (Team, Shmoop Editorial). Service’s application of literary devices like alliteration enhances the flow of the poem; “roam 'round, cursèd cold, foul or fair, half hid, and brawn and brains” (Service).

The cold of the Arctic is a major theme and Service uses an assortment of other literary devices to convey his message (Team, Shmoop Editorial). He sets the tone with the oxymoron at the end of the first stanza; “midnight sun” (Service) where midnight speaks to cold and sun to warmth. Then again in the first quatrain he uses a metaphor to tell of how ones “blood runs cold” (Service) in the Arctic. Service employs juxtaposition in the second quatrain when he puts Sam’s home in warm Tennessee “where the cotton blooms and blows” (Service) beside his present residence of the Arctic where “He [is] was always cold” (Service). He utilizes a simile in such a manner that the reader can feel the relentless, penetrating cold “Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail” (Service). His use of personification “heavens scowled” (Service) and “I wrestled with grisly fear” (Service) paints an image of cold so effectively that we can see the dark sky and feel the shiver of fear.

Another theme that comes alive through the use of literary devices is the peculiar (Team, Shmoop Editorial). Service’s first quatrain is peppered with metaphors; “The Arctic trails have their secret tales [and] The Northern Lights have seen queer sights” (Service) which set the mood for the strange. Later in the seventh quatrain Service uses a metaphor to emphasis the cold and the darkness of...
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