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How does seamus heaney reveal his culture in poems "Digging" and "follower"

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Introduction

How does Seamus Heaney reveal his culture in 'Digging' and 'Follower'? Seamus Heaney was born in Northern Ireland in 1939 to a working class family. Being the eldest of nine siblings wasn't easy yet Heaney's intelligence was highlighted when he won a scholarship to a catholic school at the tender age of twelve. He had an agricultural background and was raised on the family farm where he stood proud of his hard working ancestors and their skills. After studying Heaney's first pair of poems 'Digging' and 'Follower' I can especially relate to the strong family values Heaney displays, yet an important part of the Irish tradition is for a father to pass on his business or trade down to the eldest son. We see how Heaney would feel pressurised; indeed he would have a lot to live up to judging by that exposed in his poetry. It is well known that most Irishmen are working class and Ireland has a very strong pub culture; from this fact stems many stereotypes. Through his poetry Heaney attempts to challenge the discrimination that is regularly shown towards Irish farmers. We see even today many frequently told jokes involve the Irish man as the fool; it's the Irish farmer that is especially misinterpreted, yet Heaney gives us a fair insight into the life of his family and their farming profession; he tells readers of the immense skill needed to farm well and the capability of an Irish farmer. He is therefore challenging the tradition yet damaging the stereotype. Firstly we see how 'Digging' has both a metaphorical and literal meaning to it. ...read more.

Middle

It seems that he has no time for his grandson and although he is working hard and is focused this also is a reflection of their poor relationship and highlights the lack of intimacy between the two. The fact that Heaney carried his grandfather milk shows that the children were encouraged to partake in family work and start their farming at a young age. Heaney praises and celebrates his fathers farming skills throughout his work and the relaxed movements and smooth rhythm that is described within Heaney's poetry becomes a great reflection upon the poetic technique of him as a writer showing that though his father has rhythmic physicality he himself can create a great poetic flow: "Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, going down and down For the good turf. Digging." Through these lines we see Heaney recreating the movement and allowing us to absorb the precise handling and controlled rhythm farming requires. Also the way the poet uses the title of the poem in a short sentence is very effective because it reinforces and reminds us of the key ideas Heaney wishes to highlight within this particular poem. The final two stanzas' I believe are crucial to the success of the poem as a whole. Heaney firstly says: "The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap Of soggy peat..." This again is a reflection of the auditory aspect of the poem. We see here how the smells of Irish farming are also embedded in Heaney's memory; the onomatopoeia and alliteration used here makes his senses visual for the reader to interpret. ...read more.

Conclusion

We are given the image of a man-machine in 'Digging' through the powerful, masculine verbs Heaney uses he says rhythmic words such as 'straining' and 'stooping' they are monotonous, repetitive and reveal the strenuous nature of pastoral work illustrating the power his father and fathers father wielded with their shovel and sweat. "Twenty years away" This is a phrase that reinforces the repetitive nature of the physical labour it lets us know that farming is a job for life. Heaney visualises his father in his prime to place emphasize upon the power he had. The technical terms used like 'lug', 'shaft' and 'levered' confirm the machine image. With machine-like accuracy "He rooted out the tall tops, buried the bright edged deep" The alliteration used here enhances the reader's visual imagery producing a picture of experience and excellence. We see further on how the image of a man-machine is reinforced as Heaney speaks of his grandfather, he says: "Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, going down and down For the good turf." This shows us that the generations of skill have been passed down through the family as has the ancient tradition; we see how Heaney's grandfather truly knew his craft. Great strength and power is exposed when reading these lines. Follower immediately illuminates the agricultural aspect of Ireland; we see this is the first line where he says his father "worked with a horse-plough" to reinforce the Irish cultivation Heaney uses technical terms such as 'wing', 'sock' and 'headrig' this shows his involvement in the farming tradition and his up bringing is reflected as we see he has come to learn the language of a true farmer. ...read more.

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