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Explore Heaney's themes and poetic technique in 'Digging' and 'Follower'.

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Introduction

Explore Heaney's themes and poetic technique in 'Digging' and 'Follower'. In this essay I'm going to explain the themes and poetic technique in the poems 'Follower' and 'Digging', both written by Seamus Heaney. They're both taken from the book 'Death of a Naturalist' (1966) The poem 'Follower' begins with an image of Heaney's father working in the field 'with a horse-plough'. The description: His shoulders globed like a full sail strung Between the shafts and the furrow. Is very clever, as it is elegant and powerful. It's elegant because of the image of his father 'like a full sail' whilst the plough is his ship. It conjures pictures of great ships that would have been sailed by Sir Farces Drake would sail across the sea, these ships were beautiful and moved slowly and gracefully - this is the image given of Heaney's father. It's a powerful image because of the strength of the "ship" and his 'globed shoulders'. The word globe is associated with the world, perhaps when Heaney was younger his father was the world to him, and he thought that his father in a sense held the world on his shoulders. This is the constant theme through the larger majority of 'Digging' - Heaney's admiration for his father. ...read more.

Middle

The second half of this verse brings a sudden role reversal 'It's now my father who keeps stumbling/Behind me, and will not go away.' The pedestal is ripped as it were from beneath the fathers feet. I believe that this is because Heaney is older now, his father has also aged and cannot keep up with the mod cons of today's society, and also because of the father's age he's not so strong and needs protection from the son. I find the fact that we never see the father as anything other than a farmer really interesting, because he's only a 3D character. This may be a symbol of Heaney's realisation that it fascinated and awed him as a child that his father was so good, but now he realises that that is all his father was good at and it doesn't compare to other people's accomplishments. This mirrors any child's perception of their father as they grow up, when they grow up their father is their world and they think he's amazing, but when they grow up, although they love their father they realize that their father isn't as big and as amazing as they had imagined. ...read more.

Conclusion

Whilst the end of the rhythm signifies the end of the cycle, these last few lines tie in with the first few, and give the poem a sense of completion and a rounded quality. It also confirms that he thinks that his writing is as powerful as a gun, if we compare it to the first couplet, maybe he thinks his contribution to the war is in his writing. There are many themes in this poem. Similar to 'Follower' it has the themes of, nature, farming, admiration and inadequacy. It also has the theme of duty, the duty to keep the family tradition of digging, the theme guilt ties in to this theme because the poet felt guilt for not accepting his duty for keeping the family tradition. War is a theme, a reference to the war in Northern Ireland is in the first couplet by referring to the gun, and later on in the poem the word 'shaft' has a double meaning - part of the plough and also part of a gun. The rhythm also gives the hint of the theme 'continuing', because Heaney had to break the cycle by breaking the first couplet in the last verse. English - Seamus Heaney Victoria Burton 1 ...read more.

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