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Follower by Seamus Heaney

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Follower Seamus Heaney The follower is written by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, the poem is about the poets love and admiration for his father. The poem is also about the changes that occur between father and children as children move out from their parent's shadow. We learn a lot about both the relationship that existed between them and the way Heaney saw his family. In the first half of the poem Heaney presents us with a vivid portrait of his father as he appeared to the poet as a young boy. The poet, as a young boy, follows his father as he goes about his work and like most boys, he idolises his father and admires his great skill, ` an expert` with the horse-plough and Heaney as a little boy would simply get in his fathers way. In the poem, Heaney looks up to his father in a physical sense, because he is so much smaller than his father, but he also looks up to him in a metaphorical sense. ...read more.


In the second half of the poem, the focus shifts from the father to the boy. Stanza three starts with "I". Here there is a shift into the first person: the "I" voice: "I stumbled..."; "I wanted..."; "I was a nuisance..." It is as though at this moment the boy has become aware of himself. He wants to be like his father but thinks of himself as clumsy and a "nuisance". His fathers strength and power are also very effectively brought out in the simply, but effective simile, 'his shoulders globed like a full sail strung between two shafts and the furrow.' The comparison here suggests a man who spends most of his time out of doors. The word 'globed' also suggests great strength and gives the impression that the father was the whole world to the young boy. It is important that his father is not simply strong; his love and care for his son are emphasised by the fact that he 'rode me on his back dipping and rising to his pod'. ...read more.


The use of a new sentence beginning with a capital 'B' emphasises the importance of this statement. Just as the boy once tripped and fell in his father's wake, now, that he has grown up, it his father who 'stumbles' behind him. The roles have been switched between the two men and now it's his father who follows his son. By the end of the poem we are left an image of the stumbling old man in sharp contrast with the stumbling of childhood. Even though the word 'love' is never used in the poem, it is obvious that this word best describes the basis of the relationship existing between Heaney and his father. The poem is very much a personal experience, but has a wider significance relating to any kind of hero-worship by a 'follower'. Now that Heaney is now an adult he acknowledges that the father he hero-worshipped as a young boy has grown old and needs as much tolerance and patience as he himself once showed his son. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The Response to the Question is extremely well-established. It is structured so ideas and explanations are easily written, explored and read by examiners. The candidates focuses attentively on the steer of the question and how the reliant Heaney Jr. follows ...

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Response to the question

The Response to the Question is extremely well-established. It is structured so ideas and explanations are easily written, explored and read by examiners. The candidates focuses attentively on the steer of the question and how the reliant Heaney Jr. follows his father around until he himself is old enough to forge his own path, and it becomes his "father who keeps stumbling behind". A well-informed response to the question, discussing many different uses of poetic and linguistic devices in order to convey the effect of the poem.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is highly indicative of a candidate with the ability to achieve top marks. There is a sensitive awareness of how Heaney presents the relationship between him and his father as well as how he uses poetic devices such as visual and aural imagery and emotive language to convey that relationship to his readers. The candidate has also done well to consider how Heaney's own independence after growing up has reversed the roles of him and his father.
Quite possibly, there could be a greater focus on the context of the poem and how the message Heaney is trying to send to his readers is conveyed. Heaney grew up on a farm, where is father laboured for a living. Knowing that he didn't want to 'follow in his fathers' footsteps', as it were, he chose to rebel against what was considered the norm at the time - to take on the family business. In not doing so, he writes about the turning point in history when young men were encouraged to forge their own paths through life, without having to stick to what they forefathers did. This is discussed in the last stanza, where Heaney says "but today it is my father who keeps stumbling behind me" suggesting that the archaic idea of pursuing his father's occupation is now old and in the past.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is very good. Whilst there is no use of the more difficult punctuation points (semi-colons, colons) the other punctuation, spelling and grammar is accurately used. However, candidates must realise that, if they are to write the name of the poet or poem, they MUST use a capital letter for each word.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 22/02/2012

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