Why did none of the characters in the poem “The Cold Within” share their wood?
Or, What role did prejudice, discrimination, racism and envy play in the poem?
In James Patrick Kinney’s poem The Cold Within the poet has shown how people are divided all over the world based on some narrow considerations like racism, religious hatred, class distinction, prejudice and so on. The discrimination among people can lead to a great deal of problem for the society.
In the poem, six ‘humans’ were there around the dying fire and everybody had a stick to give the fire a new lease of life. But no one came forward to share their wood because they had hatred in the mind for others.
The first woman had racism against the black people. Another man had ill feelings for people with other religious faith different from his. The third man was prejudiced against the rich people as he was poor. The fourth one had prejudice against the poor and he was rich and greedy to save more for himself. The fifth man was the black one and wanted to take revenge against the white people as they had always ill-treated their race. The last man was narrow minded and wanted to share his wood only in exchange for something else. So none of them shared their piece of wood and rather chose to die in the cold weather.
This is highly symbolic of the folly of people’s ill-feelings against their fellow men. If people are not broad-minded enough they can never enjoy a happy and peaceful life. This is the message the poet wants to convey.
None of the characters shared their wood because they all were having feeling inside their heart to take revenge against one another. They all were filled with discrimination towards others.
A similar question is answered here: What role did prejudice play in The Cold Within?
I feel the poet is trying to say that basically none of them are united and have hatred towards each other.
The poem also has an irony in itself as a line says that the group was ‘forlorn’ which is not possible. The natural feel and theme of the poem itself informs us about the different types of discrimination which divide us, make us turn against each other. The poet also wants to convey a message to us in the last two lines
They did not die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.
We are first and foremost human beings before being black or white, rich or poor, of one religion or the other, which somehow the characters of the poem forgot and let the race, religion, socio-economic state, skin color and greed get the better of them. It is clear they chose to die rather than helping each other survive which portrays that discrimination had truly taken over the humanity of the people in that scenario.