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"Violence is never far from the surface." Discuss with reference to three of Heaney's poems.

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"Violence is never far from the surface." Discuss with reference to three of Heaney's poems. To discuss the topic of violence in Heaney's poems, it is easiest to look at three of his poems that have an aggressive nature. Therefore, I am going to look at the poems: Punishment, A Constable Calls and Act of Union, all of which incorporate the theme of violence. It is useful to understand the underlying themes of the poems mentioned to understand them as violence is not always explicitly mentioned. A Constable Calls is about a police officer visiting a Northern Irish farm, checking up on the farms produce. A rather innocent task, however, in the mind of the young boy, this visit appears threatening and intruding. Punishment is about the remains of a body (a young female in her day) found in a bog. She appears to be the victim of a ritual killing, punished for the fact that she was an adulteress. Act of Union, on the alternative hand, is a complex metaphor distinguishing England as a man, Ireland as woman and Northern Ireland as the offspring. ...read more.


Act of Union also looks at violence in a similar way to both A Constable Calls and Punishment. It looks at the physical and mental side to violence: "And I am still imperially Male, leaving you with the pain" Discussing how England has effectively raped Ireland in the way it treats it, not having enough knowledge of Ireland to treat it with respect, hence only creating destruction. Both A Constable Calls and Act of Union probe the idea of the threat of violence. For example, in Act of Union, England is: "The tall kingdom over your shoulder" "Your" referring to Ireland, the idea suggests how, England being larger and subsequently more powerful, has a large influence over Ireland's actions and will resort to violence if it strays off line in political and social aspects. Similarly, in A Constable Calls, the constable represents the domineering force in Northern Ireland: "The boot of the law" Here, a common phrase, "The long arm of the law" has been changed to suit the actions of English authorities in Ireland, once again displaying how England is not apprehensive about using force against Ireland. ...read more.


the tug of the halter at the nape of her neck" Here, describing the visible ring on her neck left from some form of rope in which the young women was possibly hung from before her execution in the bog. This portrays to us a very violent image in which the young woman was possibly tortured in several different ways before her eventual release into death. Heaney, in Punishment, also proceeds to inform us that, despite how civilised we may think we are in the modern age, the actions of England towards Ireland show how little we have developed throughout the centuries: "Who would connive in civilised outrage" Act of Union clearly demonstrates this point: "Mustering Force" Suggesting how Ireland is putting together a force, possibly drawing parallels to the IRA (violent terrorist organisation fighting for the freedom of Northern Ireland), looking to oust the English from Northern Ireland. However, this force is partially looking to avenge Ireland after its supposed "rape", much like the community in Punishment looking to find revenge for what the young woman may have brought to various families. Similarly to A Constable Calls; "The polished holster ... ... ...read more.

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