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"Compare and Contrast 'Catrin' by Gillian Clarke with 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney

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"Compare and Contrast 'Catrin' by Gillian Clarke with 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney. In this essay I will be comparing and contrasting 'Digging' by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney with 'Catrin' by the Welsh poet Gillian Clarke. I will begin by discussing the aspects of 'Digging' which includes the title, content, theme, setting, style, message and my own personal response. I will also explain what the two poems are about. Following the discussion of 'Digging' I will then compare it with the poem 'Catrin'. The tittle 'Digging' creates a lot of images and plans many scenarios towards what it actually stands for. What it tells me about the poem is that 'Digging' is the main feature and could be used to compare with other activities. It shows it's about people digging with shiny spades on dirty parts of land. The setting of the poem changes due to Heaney's memories of his father and grandfather. In stanza three Heaney describes where his father's place of work is situated. To do this he added the purpose towards what he is actually digging for. " Til his straining rump among the flowerbeds. The potato drills where he was digging." (Stanza 3) The thought of flowerbeds and potatoes creates images showing neatly spread out rows upon short, green beautiful grass. The flowerbeds add pride to where he is digging as it shows it's a place well kept. ...read more.


The overall message that Seamus Heaney is trying to inform is that you don't have to follow in your family's footsteps. "But I've no spade to follow men like them." (Stanza 8) I think what this quote means is that from the start, Seamus Heaney knew that he could never be as good at digging as his father and grandfather. It might not have been that he didn't want to, I think it's just that he didn't want to disappoint his family's tradition by doing it wrong. "The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it". (Stanza 9) In the end Seamus Heaney's decision to become a poet was an understandable decision. Using the quote, Seamus couldn't become a digger for all kinds of reasons but then described that he could write the same way as his family digs. "By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man." (Stanza 5) Using his family's skills of digging, Seamus Heaney created a simile towards his occupation. He put his effort into writing like his family did with digging and dug with his pen like they did with their spades. I thought the point of the poem was easy to understand in the way that the poet was trying to get it across. I think that Seamus Heaney was making sure that the reader would understand what it was like to hear his family digging with onomatopoeic words, "Rasping". ...read more.


The similarities are that the younger generation in both families takes after their older relatives even though they don't do the same work. The major difference between the poems is that in "Digging" the son is imagining about his father. He talks about how he remembers his father digging under his window and the sounds he use to hear. These are the memories of what has happened. In "Catrin" the difference is that the mother is talking about her daughter. She talks about the past but also talks about what's actually happening in the present. I think that the poems are more similar than dissimilar. My reasons are that in both poems the people in it are parent and child and both show the same feelings. In "Digging" the son shows that he is happy about the memories of his father. This is linked with the mother in "Catrin" who remembers the birth of her daughter, which is a pleasant memory to her. I don't think there is much difference between the poems so I couldn't identify one from the other. The layout of "Catrin" though was easier to understand compared to digging. One paragraph of happy memories and one of worried feelings made it easy to get the message. In "Digging" the spaced out paragraphs made it harder to understand as the information was changing in every stanza. My personal opinion is that "Catrin" is a more successful poem as the layout of the poem made it easier to understand the message. ?? ?? ?? ?? Charlie McCormick ...read more.

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Response to the question

Answer is in response to a question that assigns a comparative task between Gillian Clarke's poem 'Catrin' and Seamus Heaney's poem 'Digging'. The answer here displays good focus on the question steer but the primary issue with this answer is ...

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Response to the question

Answer is in response to a question that assigns a comparative task between Gillian Clarke's poem 'Catrin' and Seamus Heaney's poem 'Digging'. The answer here displays good focus on the question steer but the primary issue with this answer is that it is not balanced and does not cover a sufficient or broad enough range of poetic devices to gain higher than a high C grade for GCSE. To improve, the candidate should, instead of discussing everything they know about each poem in turn, recognise comparative points between the two poems and comment on how those poetic devices feature in each poem. This way the candidate is encouraging active comparison between the two poems in each paragraph of their answer, rather than simply listing analysis of the poems individually.

Level of analysis

As an analytical discussion, the candidate must balance their focus on each poem, but there is quite clearly more analysis given to 'Digging' rather than 'Catrin', despite a lot of what the candidate says about 'Digging' being a good comparative point for discussion about 'Catrin', e.g. - the use of sibilance, alliteration and assonance creates a harmony with nature, reflective of the rural farm life than Heaney grew up with. But when Heaney stops reminiscing about his past and defies continuing life as a farmer with "his squat pen", his language becomes direct and clinical. The candidate did not go to this level of depth and did not note that the same can be said for Clarke's 'Catrin' - the language is impersonal and clinical when Clarke is speaking of being in labour, not knowing the child and being in a state of confusion and fear about whether or not she wishes to take on her motherly duties as society would encourage. But when she is giving birth she also uses more colourful language like Heaney; alliteration and assonance to "colour" the "hot, white room" as she fights of the "red rope of love" - it shows a the theme of conflict but also passion - the same intense passion Heaney shows as an admiration of his father.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is fairly basic and thus the candidate does not require much knowledge of the English language to do particularly well. That isn't to say this will penalise their answer, as everything they write is nicely structured and well-expressed, but to improve the candidate could use a range of more challenging vocabulary and more complex punctuation points, to range the sentence structures and create an answer that is thoroughly engaging and convincing.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 17/03/2012

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