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Compare 'Digging' and 'Follower' by Seamus Heany

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1. Compare the ways in which 'Follower' and 'Digging' explore the theme of changes due to passing time Both 'Follower' and 'Digging' explore the theme of changes due to passing time. 'Follower' begins in the past tense, which demonstrates Heaney looking back into his past; whereas 'Digging' begins in the present tense, which suggests he is looking at his current situation whilst reflecting on memories and childhood experiences. The title 'Digging' explores the theme of changes due to passing time, as Heaney knows that he has no spade to follow men like his father and grandfather-he is a writer, not a farmer so will dig with his pen. Throughout the poem, Heaney draws close emphasis to childhood experiences, detailing sensory images, which suggest that these memories are important to him as he remembers them so clearly. ...read more.


Similarly in 'Digging' Heaney tells the reader that 'Once I carried him milk'. This involvement that enabled him to watch his father and grandfather so closely shows Heaney's admiration in his attempt to 'grow up and plough' and be like his father. However, in the last stanza of 'Follower' Heaney demonstrates a change in his relationship with his father. The change into present tense as he says 'today it is my father who keeps stumbling' demonstrates the change in roles over time. Admiration is a feeling expressed by Heaney about his father and grandfather in both poems. 'Digging' suggests that Heaney, as a grown man, still respects his father and grandfather's work as he says: 'I've no spade to follow men like them' which suggest he feels he is inferior to them. ...read more.


However, the poem represents a great change in Heaney, from a boy to a man, as well as the change in relationship with him and his father. However, in 'Digging' the amount of lines in each stanza vary from three to eight, perhaps to reflect the idea that there was no predictability that Heaney would become a writer or these changes would occur; or the idea that there's no pattern to our memories. Both poems display the theme of changes through passing time by exploring our relationships to our forebears, and to work. In 'Digging' Heaney is till very proud of the work of his father and grandfather despite that he has 'no spade to follow' and continues their work by digging with his pen. 'Follower' explores this theme differently by using a change in Heaney attitude from admiration to almost pity and resentment to demonstrate the change in time. Although written by the same poet, each poem explores this theme similarly yet with two different approaches. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is a very competent response from a candidate who shows a fair knowledge of the two Heaney poems 'Digging' and 'Follower'. Though not perfect, the candidate has incorporated a number of comparison points - both similarities and differences - ...

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Response to the question

This is a very competent response from a candidate who shows a fair knowledge of the two Heaney poems 'Digging' and 'Follower'. Though not perfect, the candidate has incorporated a number of comparison points - both similarities and differences - primarily concerning the theme but also the language in parts. This is a good response but where it could improve is to incorporate more analytical points concerning the language Heaney uses, such as the use of free verse or the specialist vocabulary used to describe his father's work - what does this show about his relationship with his father? How could this tie into what you have already said, so to enforce your analytical points with more evidence? All in all this is a fair response to the question, which may struggle to express it's points without the assistance of wording (not quotes, which may have been wiser) from the poems themselves early on, but soon resolves to form a cohesive, confident essay response.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis here is fair. The candidate demonstrates a good knowledge of the poems' themes and how they establish Heaney's relationship with his father, but there is a severe lack of contextual appreciation evident. Context is by no means the be all and end all at GCSE level, but achieve the highest grade boundaries, candidates must ensure to incorporate contextual appreciation, such as identifying and analysing the language and the themes alongside the purpose of writing and the audience intended. Why is it so unusual that Heaney will not follow in his father's footstep and become a labourer? What was the tradition at the time? Think how Ireland relies on the land so much, and so therefore imagine the response when Heaney told his father he would not continue to care for the land - this is the level that is required of an A* grade candidate, though this essay here is still a very proficient response capable of eliciting a strong B grade for GCSE.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication here is good. There is a sound use of grammar, spelling and punctuation, and all the specialist poetic terminology used is applied correctly. There is no great issue with not using a great deal of poetic terminology though, because Heaney's poetry is mainly written in free verse (like the two poems concerned here).

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 01/07/2012

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