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Compare The Barn and An Advancement of Learning - How does Heaney present childhood fears and imagination?

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Compare The Barn and An Advancement of Learning. How does Heaney present childhood fears and imagination? In the two Seamus Heaney poems', "The Barn," and "An Advancement of Learning," there are a number of similarities and differences between them. One key similarity is the theme of rats. In, "The Barn," the boy explores around and once he walks into a cobweb, he gets a fright and tries to get away into the sunlit yard. The boy has nightmares in the poem and the large, heavy corn sacks are described as, "great blind rats," whereas in, "An Advancement of Learning," the rats are actually real and they scuttle past in front of his eyes. They are portrayed as arrogant and disgusting. Heaney says, "The rats slobbered out of the water, smudging the silence." We begin to imagine revolting beasts all wet and disgusting scurrying about the riverbanks. What is very similar about the two poems is that they are both very autobiographical and recall childhood memories. "The Barn," is about Heaney's past experience of the barn and he tells us of all the feelings he felt at the time. In, "An Advancement of Learning," Heaney refers to how he used to panic when his grey brothers scraped and fed behind the hencoop in his yard and on ceiling boards above his bed. ...read more.


The movement from one place to another in this poem is the definite turning point. It goes from being quite dark in the barn, to the sunlit yard, away from the dank dustiness, to the bright and cheerful place. From there on, the nightmares begin. Although the poem is structured well, I do feel that it sounds slightly incomplete. Heaney ends the poem by saying, "the two-lugged sacks moved in like great blind rats." I feel that not all questions have been answered in the poem and I would like to read a further one-line stanza perhaps, to draw the poem to a conclusion. The language in both poems is very descriptive and lots of adjectives are being used. In, "An Advancement of Learning," the boy analyses the, "tapered tail, raindrop eye and old snout," as though his interest in the rat is no longer imaginative but scientific. In, "The Barn," the floor is described as, "mouse grey, smooth, chilly concrete." Clearly, Heaney's strength is his use of descriptive language, which creates a vivid image in your mind. As Heaney is gifted with his imagination there are obviously numerous images in both poems. In, "The Barn," Heaney uses two similes in the first two lines, these are, "lay piled like grit of ivory," and, "solid as cement in two-lugged sacks". ...read more.


This shows that man is dominant over nature in the end, no matter what the circumstances may be. The same situation is also shown near to the end of the poem. The speaker becomes calm and matter-of-fact like in the last stanza, " then I walked on and crossed the bridge." The simple diction and movement of the rhythm into a pair of iambs, reflects the boy's triumph over his fear and his return to a balanced state of mind. Both poems show rats in a negative way. This shows the poets feelings towards them. Both the rats are portrayed as being intimidating and frightening. It is obviously the childhood memories which have had an impact on the way Heaney views rats. The past encounter with rats has, therefore, left a negative imprint on the poets mind forever, or as this case may be, until the fears have been conquered by staring one out. The stare factor is common in both poems. In, "The Barn," the poet says, " where bright eyes stared from piles of grain in corners, fierce, unblinking." In, "An Advancement of Learning," the poet says, "He trained on me. I stared him out." After reading these two poems I feel that the general point they're trying to make is that you must face up to your fears in order to overcome them. Samantha Staniland Ta 1 ...read more.

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