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A comparison of ‘An Advancement of Learning’ and ‘The Early Purges’ by Seamus Heaney

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A comparison of 'An Advancement of Learning' and 'The Early Purges' by Seamus Heaney In this essay I intend to compare the two poems 'An Advancement of Learning' with 'The Early Purges' both written by Seamus Heaney. 'An Advancement of Learning' is a poem about a person who starts as a young boy afraid of rats. When walking along the riverbank he would always defer the bridge and avoid the rats. Through his journeys he experiences a number of feelings which are illustrated to us through changes of tone. He experiences peacefulness, which turns to revulsion and surprise, when he 'established a dreaded Bridgehead' when trapped by two rats, soon to horror. One day when he is older he confronts his fear and there is sense of relief, combat and victory to which, in the end, turns to absolute victory as for once in his life he stares the rat out and crosses the bridge. In doing so he enters into adulthood and loses all the innocence he started with. ...read more.


An important similarity between the two Heaney poems is the use of alliteration. This technique is used to draw the reader's attention to the poem and keep them interested as in stanza three of 'An Advancement of Learning' when 'Something slobbered curtly, close, Smudging the silence' and in 'The Early Purges' when the kittens are first starting to panic with their 'Soft paws scraping' up until the point where 'their tiny din Was soon soused'. The use of the words beginning with the letter 's' suggests to us that perhaps something sinister is about to happen. It is notable that in both poems there is a use of different time scales. In 'The Early Purges' we are told in stanza five how the narrator 'forgot' the horrors of farm life until the fear 'came back'. In 'An Advancement of Learning' the narrator is forgetting how he 'used to panic' so therefore both poems refer back to the past. Both 'An Advancement of Learning' and 'The Early Purges' have the same general theme to the poem where the narrator starts with a different outlook on animals than that that is obtained near the end of each poem. ...read more.


In 'An Advancement of Learning' powerful language is used to portray negative imagery without Heaney having to have convert to swearing but to obtain the same desired effect in 'The Early Purges' Heaney has resorted to the use of slang terminology. In 'An Advancement of Learning' however the emotion being described is fear whereas in 'The Early Purges' being described is that emotion of pity for the animals. If I had to make a personal choice between the two poems as to which I prefer I would have to say that my preference would be 'An Advancement of Learning' due to the fact hat there is change in the atmosphere of the poem many times. The change goes from that of a happy and carefree feeling to a tone of revulsion and surprise to horror and finally resulting in combat and victory. 'An Advancement of Learning' speaks of a terrifying experience only to be overcome with absolute victory. There are more detailed descriptions in 'An Advancement of Learning' and therefore it creates more imagery in my mind. I prefer this poem to both 'Death of a Naturalist' and 'Blackberry Picking' as it keeps my interest especially with the use of alliteration. ...read more.

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