Man and Nature in Norman Maclean's book, Young Men and Fire

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Man and Nature in Norman Maclean's book, Young Men and Fire Norman Maclean's book, Young Men and Fire, recreates the tragedy of the Mann Gulch fire. His ambition to have this lamentable episode of history reach out and touch his readers triumphs in extolling the honor and respect deserved by the thirteen smoke jumpers who died. This book is a splendid tribute to the courageous efforts of such men, as well as a landmark, reminding mankind to heed the unpredictable behavior and raw power of nature. Deep in the midst of the Mann Gulch valley in Montana, above the densely wooded forest and below the towering precipices lies the fast-burning cheat grass, home to twelve of the thirteen dead smoke jumpers. The smoke jumpers were an elite group of the United States Forest Service's firefighters compiled in 1940, and their mission was to parachute from the open sky down unto the fires to extinguish them before they became too large. Triggered during a lightning storm the previous day, the Mann Gulch fire didn't pose a threat until the afternoon of August 5, 1949, when the thermostat reached its summertime peak and the various crosswinds from the three surrounding rivers began to whirl and swell up the fire. Before the big "blowup" occurred, the smoke jumper crew was dropped down unto the fire led by their foreman Wag Dodge to quench the fire's thirst. The recapitulation of events which Maclean embarks the reader on traces the perseverance, endurance, and fortitude of the crew as they raced for life against the ever-raging wall of fire roaring behind them. Maclean utilizes various fragments of factual interviews, personal observation, theoretical fire science, and his own distinct exploration to compose this "factual fabricati... ... middle of paper ... ... its ashes, and as the biblical phrase goes, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" Dodge literally was resurrected from a certain death. Maclean wanted to know so much, each detail, in order to reconstruct the tragedy. It is remarkable how his determination to "tell this story" sustained him over the fourteen years he devoted to this project. Maclean writes like a true master. His story creates its own rhythm, and the reader is captivated by his masterful storytelling. He retells the same strain of thoughts, with slight variations on his theme, much like the repetitiveness of a musical composer's refrain. Maclean's "Young Men and Fire" makes the reader vicariously experience the inexplicable pain and suffering of the crew and relatives. In this respect, Maclean has forever engraved this misfortune into my mind, and through this magnificent tale, the dead live on.

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