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The Cremation of Sam McGee: Story Elements

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Jan Gauthier

on 13 November 2013

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Transcript of The Cremation of Sam McGee: Story Elements

"The Cremation of Sam McGee "
by Robert W. Service

"The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee."

In the introduction, it explains that a person on the marge (edge) of Lake Lebarge has cremated a man named Sam McGee. This helps set the conflict because a reader can perceive the occurrence in different ways, for example, the queerest sight could be a large fire in a remote area or the ghost of the man leaving his body as he is cremated. The atmosphere would be calm, cold and quiet because it is on a northern lake in the arctic.

The exposition is further developed by introducing the reader to Sam McGee, a man who left warm Tennessee to be a gold prospector in the frozen north along the Dawson trail.

Inciting incident
"A pale's last need is a thing to heed,
so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn;
But God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day
of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all
that was left of Sam McGee.

The inciting incident tells us that Sam and his friend are mushing to a place, but Sam is starting to realize that his quest for gold is coming to an end because the weather is too cold for him to handle. This helps create conflict between character vs nature because Sam McGee cannot handle the weather conditions of the Artic.
Rising action#3
"Some planks I tore from the cabin floor,
and I lit a boiler fire;
some coal I found that was lying around,
and I heaped the fuel higher."

In the rising action, Sam s friend is starting a fire for the cremation of same McGee and he is gathering fuel for the fire. there is conflict with Sam s friend because he has to go through making a fire to burn his friend in.
"I'll just take a peep inside, i guess he's cooked, and it's time i looked, the door i opened wide."

The climax in the story is when Sam s friend has put him in a furnace to cremate Sam and he waits a while, then he looks inside the furnace to see his friends cooked body.

The main conflict in "the cremation of Sam McGee" is character vs nature. when Sam s friend is mushing to lake Le barge, he notices Sam McGee freezing to death in the sleigh. It is character vs nature because Sam is trying to battle the weather conditions in the arctic.
Rising action #2
"Now a promise made is a debt unpaid ,
And the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb
In my heart how I cursed the load."

The action continues to rise as Cap travels with Sam's frozen corpse that almost seems to mock him about keeping his promise. As Cap continues to travel and not break his promise he begins to hate Sam McGee (even though he doesn't say it aloud).
Rising action #1
"And before night fall a corpse was all
that was left of Sam McGee."

The first rising action for the poem would be Sam's death. This death sets in motion the rest of the conflict of Cap keeping his promise to cremate Sam McGee.


The denouement/resolution of "the cremation of Sam McGee" would be when cap actually cremates Sam McGee. its the denouement because everything leads up to it: Sam tells cap his dying wish: to be cremated, cap agrees, sets out on a journey to the crematorium beside lake Le barge, and then cremates Sam. its solves the problem of the wish and ties up the loose ends of the events.

The atmosphere in "the cremation of Sam McGee" would be mysterious and tragic. tragic because Sam McGee dies of a bad case of the cold, right in front of his friend named cap. also ,tragic because cap had to cremate Sam himself, which wouldn't be that fun to do. mysterious because a little while after cap had put Sam in the crematorium, he came in to check on him to see if he was done. cap found that Sam s ghost was sitting in the furnace , really calm, and said "please close that door. it fine in hear, but i greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm. since i left the plum tree in Tennessee, its the first time I've been warm."

The protagonist in "the cremation of Sam McGee" would most likely be cap. i think so because in the song, Sam McGee passes away from the cold. before he dies, he asks cap to cremate his corpse; a dying wish so to speak, cap agrees, and stays to his word. he did the right thing and stuck to his promise.

The theme in "the cremation of Sam McGee" would be to always keep your promises. in the song, Sam asked his friend "cap" to cremate his corpse after he was surely dead. cap promised, and no matter how many times he wanted to go home corpse, he made a promise to his deceased friend and in the end it paid off. for when cap walked in to the crematorium, after cremating Sam, he found a happy sam spirit, sitting in the fire, he was at peace and in the end, what cap did was right, he stuck to his promise.
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