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Commentary on "Casualty" by Seamus Heaney.

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IB English 2002: Dianna Gu Commentary on "Casualty" by Seamus Heaney The poem "Casualty" by Seamus Heaney is strong in emotive language and possesses a sensitivity that reaches down to the core of feeling. "Casualty" is written in three distinct sections, each of which conveys a slightly different tone and mood, though each retains the vivid imagery and lyrical warmth that is so typical of Heaney's poems. The poem speaks mainly of a drinker that the poet knew but who was killed when the pub he was drinking in was bombed. Through his reflections about his feelings towards this man, Heaney also conveys some political views, subtly, yet effectively, bringing forth the tension between the Irish Catholics and Protestants. This he achieves through mockery of trivial concerns, especially in part one. Part one of the poem elicits the deep admiration that the poet felt towards the drinker. This feeling is conveyed by the warmth of the language used as well as by the slow steady pace of the meter. The first image portrayed in the poem is, however, one of solitude. The line "He would drink by himself" conveys this sense of aloneness, yet, at the same time, suggests secrecy and the possible participation in something that is prohibited. The next line mitigates this desolate feeling through a delightful physical description: "And raise a weathered thumb". ...read more.


We can almost see how the coffins would monotonously float one after the other on a sea of people formed by the crowd "Like blossoms on slow water". This creating a solemn feeling that is projected to the audience. The following lines of the stanza convey the confinement of the Irish Catholics under Protestant power. The use of the word "tightening" depicts an image of a heard of animals being round up, and so, the Catholics, like the heard of animals, are "bound" together, powerless by the Protestants. The line "Like brothers in a ring" further emphasises this point. The use of the word "brother" conveys a common link between the people, the link of being of one religion. The use of the word "ring" conveys the image of a confining cage. From this the reader can feel the tension that Protestant power is causing, and thus, sympathise with the Catholics because of their helplessness. However, the use of the word "ring" also conveys a sense of strength, as if the hardship felt by the Irish Catholics has made them bond together to become stronger. The next stanza of the second section commences with: "he would not be held". This is juxtaposed with "his own crowd" whom, in the face of such horror, had been scared into hiding. ...read more.


The fisherman's work is described as a constant rhythm: "The get the early haul" "Dispraise the catch, and smile / As you find a rhythm". It can be felt that the poet had a great admiration for the fisherman's work. The sense of freedom is further conveyed by the idea the fishing is an escape from the city; you travel farther and farther away from the tension of city for your catch "Somewhere, well out, beyond...". The poet ends the stanza by trailing off, capturing a sense of unendingness, further suggesting that the fisherman is now out in his "proper haunt", a place somewhere, "well out, beyond...". The poem concludes with a triplet of lines that reminisce previous part of the poem. "Dawn-sniffing revenant, / Plodder through midnight rain, / Question me again." The description "Dawn-sniffing" refers to the early leave wake of a fisherman's life, out early to get a good catch, sniffing like a dog to search for the fish. "Plodder through midnight rain" refers to the man's never-ending need to quench his alcohol addiction, no matter the time, or the weather. The poem concludes is a highly emotional tome with the line: "Question me again". Clearly, the poet missed the fisherman's companionship and presence. This three-part poem is highly emotive in the depiction of the loss of a much-admired companion. Furthermore, through the descriptions the poet is able to convey his political message: the tension between the Irish Protestants and Catholics can only lead to further pain. ...read more.

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3 star(s)

There is much useful analysis here, though some that strays too far from the evidence that can be found in the text. Too much is extrapolated from thin evidence to support a strong political comment and little evidence is offered for Heaney's "mockery of trivial concerns". The conclusion could have been an opportunity to tie all this material together into a unifying summary of Heaney's achievement, but the version offered here fails in this respect.

Paragraph and sentence construction is mostly well-managed and lexis is up to the task, with a few slips.

3 stars

Marked by teacher Jeff Taylor 13/08/2013

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