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How effectively does Heaney describe the transition from innocence to experience in 'The Early Purges' and 'Death of a Naturalist'?

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Introduction

GCSE Coursework English: English Literary Heritage: Poetry English Literature: Poetry (post-1914) Seamus Heaney (1939-) How effectively does Heaney describe the transition from innocence to experience in 'The Early Purges' and 'Death of a Naturalist'? 'The Early Purges' presents the contrast between the practical realities of farm life where the death of animals is treated as a way of life and, on the other hand, the initial squeamishness of the poet as a child and the sentimental attitude of the town dwellers towards animals. 'Death of a Naturalist' is concerned with growing up and loss of innocence. Seamus Heaney vividly describes a childhood experience that precipitates a change in the boy from the receptive and protected innocence of childhood to the fear and uncertainty of adolescence. 'Death of a Naturalist' is set out in two sections of blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter lines). Heaney uses onomatopoeia more lavishly here than in any poem - and many of the sounds are very indelicate: 'gargled', 'slap and plop' and 'farting'. In 'The Early Purges', the poem is clearly divided into seven stanzas with the first and third lines of each stanza rhyming. 'Death of a Naturalist' has a fairly simple structure. In the first section, Heaney describes how the frogs would spawn in the 'lint hole', with a digression into his collecting the spawn, and how his teacher encouraged his childish interest in the process. ...read more.

Middle

The success of the poem derives from the effective way Heaney builds up a totally convincing account of a childhood experience that deals with the excitement, pain and confusion of growing up. The poem has a generally upbeat mood, and is written with a child like feel to it, which is shown by Heaneys use of the words, 'mammy' and 'daddy' frog. Alternatively, 'The Early Purges' has an upsetting and fearsome mood and tone to the poem. 'The Early Purges' is an ambivalent poem. Seamus Heaney's poem could be seen in two different ways. The reader can see the poem as the record of a child's emotional development through time, his coming to terms with practical realities in moving from sentimentality to realism (innocence to experience.) On the other hand, 'The Early Purges' could be viewed as a portrayal of a desensitising process that people experience, the escalation of an uncaring and indifferent attitude to our fellow creatures. Unlike 'The Early Purges', 'Death of a Naturalist' only has one meaning to the poem. It is concerned with growing up and loss of innocence. The poet vividly describes a childhood experience that precipitates a change in the boy from the receptive and protected innocence of childhood to the fear and uncertainty of adolescence. The idea of taking innocence and experience as a topic does not originate from Seamus Heaney (1939-). ...read more.

Conclusion

In 'The Early Purges', the experience section of the poem shows how the child has emotionally developed from a sensitive child, to a practically thinking adolescent. In the final stanza Heaney criticises the idealistic attitude of town dwellers towards animals, who regard deaths on farms as 'unnatural'. Towards the end of the poem, Heaney regards his squeamish feelings as a child as 'false sentiments' and thinks of his childhood reactions as a mistake. In the final line of the poem, there is a hint of sarcasm and irony in a clich� that Heaney uses, as he speaks of kittens as 'pests' that 'have to be kept down'. This, in my view, is a criticism towards farm dwellers who believe in the culling of animals. The reader can see both of these poems as a criticism of society. Heaney vividly illustrates images in the reader's mind for both the innocence and experience sections of the poem. In both poems, the innocence sections are from childhood. The experience sections in both poems show how the child's perceptions of the world have changed, and how the world is a place of uncertainty. In both poems, Heaney effectively shows the change from innocence to experience. This change is marked by differences in tone, diction, imagery, movement, sound and even structure. Heaney uses all of these to successfully show the transition of innocence to experience in 'The Early Purges' and 'Death of a Naturalist'. Sahil Singh 08/05/2007 ...read more.

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