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'From our study in the "Clearances" collection, what is revealed about Seamus Heaney and his relationship with his mother, and his thoughts and feelings about other members of his family'

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Introduction

'From our study in the "Clearances" collection, what is revealed about Seamus Heaney and his relationship with his mother, and his thoughts and feelings about other members of his family' One of the most moving and emotional of Heaney's works is his collection of sonnets called 'Clearances'. These sonnets were written in dedication and memoriam to his mother Margaret Kathleen Heaney, who died in 1984. The eight sonnets are filled with lively, detailed and vivid memories, but the strong and loving relationship between Heaney and his mother is constantly referred to also. Heaney has no difficulty in expressing openly the love felt for his mother, both by him and his family, as we see in the invocation at the beginning of the collection; 'She taught me what her uncle once taught her'. Here we immediately see how his mother has taught him simple but great life wisdom, how to live and deal with problems in everyday life. This immediately identifies a clear picture of love and devotion towards her son, illuminating right from the beginning their strong mother/son relationship. This life wisdom is reflected again in sonnet 2, whereby she commands him on various rules before entering the house she grew up in; 'And don't be dropping crumbs. Don't tilt your chair'. This yet again shows the close bond Heaney and his mother share, as she warns him in order to avoid him getting into trouble, showing that she is concerned over his welfare and wants to avoid upsetting him in any way possible. ...read more.

Middle

The devoted bond between Heaney and his mother is illuminated again in sonnet 5. In this sonnet, Heaney talks again about another female activity that he is helping his mother with, helping her to fold sheets that have newly come in off the line. The intimacy between them is revealed once more as their hands 'end up hand to hand'. This shows yet again the closeness between him and his mother as they are together in such an emotional way by performing such a simple task. There is a slight flaw again in their relationship in this poem however, as we begin to see the differences faced by both Heaney and his mother with Heaney's education seems to overpower his mother, 'and pulled against her; suggesting that as he grows and becomes more intelligent, it is slowly pushing them away from each other. Sonnet 6 shows a change in Heaney's age, and it becomes clear that he is in his teenage years. Despite the change however, his relationship with his mother seems unaffected. He compares his mother with the book Sons and Lovers. The title of the book immediately shows us the deep love felt for his mother during these years, and their closeness is still confirmed as they kneel 'elbow to elbow' in the church at Easter time. Heaney sees this as important and shows us that mother and son are both entering a different phase, they are both now devoutly religious. ...read more.

Conclusion

In sonnet 2, we are introduced briefly to Heaney's grandparents. Yet again, Heaney feels respect towards them and sees their way of life as organised and traditional, a successful way to be. He clearly feels great affection and love towards them as he listens to his mother's imperatives in order not to upset them and make things easier for his mother, 'to welcome home a bewildered homing daughter'. The final member of Heaney's family that we are introduced to is his father. In sonnet 3, Heaney sees and portrays him as a quiet man, a man who does not speak much, 'hammer and tong at the prayers for the dying'. There is also a hint that Heaney's father is a man of few emotions, at the suggestion that he is not crying at his wife's bedside. However, in sonnet 7, Heaney sees him in a whole new light. His father describes his mother as 'good' and 'girl', and talks about the early days of their courtship, and finally shows her affection by bending down to her 'propped-up head'. Heaney is overjoyed at this, 'she could not hear but we were overjoyed', as his father finally feels like he did towards his mother. It is possible that Heaney feels a slight closeness towards his father at this point, that both are united in their grief. He clearly feels love towards his father, and his comforted by the words spoken by him at his mothers deathbed. ...read more.

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