• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does Heaney explore the issues of background and identity in his early poems, Digging and Follower?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How does Heaney explore the issues of background and identity in his early poems, Digging and Follower? Digging and Follower show Heaney delving into his earliest personal memories of his childhood and giving them life through words. He uses diverse approaches to expose the underlying emotion of his memories, using tactile imagery that is often also metaphorical. On the surface, his poetry may appear simple, or perhaps trivial - but often, as with all things, there is more to it than what first glance reveals. Heaney does not use pretentious elaborate visual description that is 'sugar coated' in the way that memories usually are. His use of onomatopoeia and 'clumsy' words such as "squelch", "slap" often verge on the grotesque but are extremely effective in conveying a sense of reality. By remembering these simple details, such as the sound of a spade 'rasping' as it sinks into 'gravelly ground', Heaney can make connections with his past background and seek to define his identity through his poems. ...read more.

Middle

Heaney crafts a borderline between the immediate present and the past by using delicate imagery of his father "Bend[ing] low, com[ing] up twenty years away", as if transported through time. The fourth stanza sinks into immediacy, as it is a first hand, surprised reaction to his father's skill, linking back in time to his father's father. This also creates a sense of times changing, of tradition breaking. By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man. In Digging, Heaney quite blatantly parallels digging for potatoes with digging for memories. He cannot match "men like them" with a spade, but by substituting a spade for a pen and potatoes for memories and inspiration, the paint and palette of a poem, he can dig into his past and celebrate them. Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. ...read more.

Conclusion

The tone changes to resentful, even bitter and sad. It is emotional, and describes what he thought his father perceived him to be: a 'nuisance', tripping and falling behind his father. All I ever did was follow In his broad shadow round the farm. I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, Yapping always. The feeling of resentment is echoed in the final lines, But today It is my father who keeps stumbling Behind me, and will not go away. There is an obvious reversal of roles that is not present in Digging. The final stanza could be interpreted as instead the memory of his father that will not dissipate, that holds him back and "stumbles" behind him. Heaney shows the transformation and change of a child growing into an adult, and it is through these two poems that he reflects on how this took place. Background and identity are explored through personal, unsweetened recognitions - both the unpleasant and the good. Rebecca Cottrell. 29/09/03 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Seamus Heaney section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a star student thought of this essay

4 star(s)

Response to the question

Response to Question
The title of this essay gives candidates a fair amount of freedom as to what they write about these two poems, but what is important is the linking of language features and techniques to the effect they ...

Read full review

Response to the question

Response to Question
The title of this essay gives candidates a fair amount of freedom as to what they write about these two poems, but what is important is the linking of language features and techniques to the effect they have on the reader, with regards to highlighting or communicating Heaney's feelings about background and identity. This candidate's essay demonstrates this well, although there could be more development to take the essay to the highest grades. In several cases though, there could be more focus on the effect of different techniques used by Heaney, as their use is often noted, but then they are not analysed in enough depth.

Level of analysis

Level of Analysis
The candidate's level of analysis in this essay is good, probably of an A standard at GCSE. The quotations used are frequently analysed in detail, and the candidate considers the way in which the selected quotes show Heaney's background and identity - see the paragraph beginning "In Digging, Heaney quite blatantly parallels..." for a good example. Some points could be more developed, as they often feel lacking in explanation, or the link to the issues of background/identity. For example, the candidate writes "The first two-line stanza ‘earths’ the poem to the poet", and gives an example of how this is done, but does not explain exactly what they mean by the poem being 'earthed' to Heaney, and personally I found the idea unclear and thus did not add to the essay.

Quality of writing

Quality of Writing
The introduction to this essay is very strong. It clearly outlines what the poems are about, and some of the techniques Heaney uses in them. The candidate also quickly dives into analysis of language, which is concise and to the point. However, I feel that the sentence beginning "His use of onomatopoeia..." should be a separate paragraph, as it seems a sudden and odd change from the previous sentence, and the idea is continued in the second paragraph, which makes for a disjointed start to the essay. Overall, though, the quality of written communication is very strong, and the candidate expresses their ideas well, in a clear and mature style. There are very minor spelling/grammatical errors, many of which seem to be typos, but it is very important that candidates proofread their work before submitting it.


Did you find this review helpful? Join our team of reviewers and help other students learn

Reviewed by ecaudate 06/04/2012

Read less
Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Seamus Heaney essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Seamus Heaney's poems explore the loss of childhood and the cruel awakening into the ...

    4 star(s)

    Similar to "Blackberry Picking," "Death of a Naturalist" is also about childhood and adulthood. For Heaney "Death of a Naturalist" is the death of innocence and childhood. It is the birth of a poet, and the beginning of adulthood. Like "Blackberry Picking," it is an extended metaphor.

  2. Seamus Heaney has Vivid Memories of his Childhood. Analyse Two Poems That Reflect Heaney's ...

    In the second stanza, Heaney fully describes how his father works. This shows that Heaney is an observer, too young to help, but he watches his father with admiration as he deals expertly with his tasks. He uses very technical terms to describe the processes: '.....He would set the wing and fit the bright steel-pointed sock.'

  1. Compare And Contrast Seamus Heaney's Poems 'Digging' And 'Follower'.

    In Follower as well the son failed to follow the father's example, as said, "all I ever did was follow / nuisance, tripping." There is also a role reversal in Follower towards the end, when it isn't Heaney letting his father down but is in fact his father, "my father...keeps stumbling / will not go away."

  2. Compare And Contrast Seamus Heaney's Poems 'Digging' And 'Follower'.

    The significance this overlap has on the two poems is the fact that it links both poems together.

  1. Seamus Heaney uses various ways to explore the theme of family life in his ...

    it shows that thought it may have seemed as easy job [emphasises by the "pluck"] it actually is quite hard [emphasised by the "sweating"]. The lines "narrowed and angled at the ground, mapping the furrow exactly" Shows Heaneys appreciation for the exactness of farmers and his appreciation of his fathers skill.

  2. In his poems 'Follower and Digging' Heaney is thinking about his father. How do ...

    This is the turning point from Heaney's view of himself as a child to the introduction of his perspective as an adult. This tells the reader how the roles have been reversed and it is Heaney who now feels frustration with his father.

  1. Plath and Heaney - In this essay I will be looking at 3 poems, ...

    There is a feeling of wistfulness and nostalgia in the last line, like Heaney is looking back into his childhood and wishing that things could have been different. Like Plath's 'Blackberrying', this poem has no regular rhythm or rhyme. However, Heaney does use a lot of alliteration, which adds to the effectiveness of the language.

  2. Mother - son relationship

    The kettle whistled. Sandwich and teascone were present and correct(...)'5 Due to the poet's mother that home was not only neat, tidy and ordered and with the traditional tea but also full of warm, cordial and hospitable atmosphere. Such description of the house, filled with still vivid recollections, ennobles Heaney's

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work