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

How has Seamus Heaney's childhood affected his poetry?

Extracts from this document...


How has Seamus Heaney's childhood affected his poetry? Seamus Heaney was born in the North of Ireland in 1939 on a farm with his mother and father and nine other siblings. Generally Heaney's poems are influenced by animals through his childhood experience, specifically within 'The Early Purges' and 'An Advancement of Learning'. Heaney grew up near Belfast, during the time of 'The Troubles', the Irish civil war. Although Heaney left at the height of the war, it is obvious his work reflects his experiences of that time. For an example 'The Early Purges' illustrates this. "Where they consider death unnatural". Growing into an environment where Heaney will appreciate that death does exist, the extract interprets killing to be artificial. Many of Heaney's early poems dealt with experiences of childhood and a frequent theme is how these experiences affect us. One poem that deals with a childhood experience is "The Early Purges". The title immediately suggests that the poem is about getting rid of undesirables. ...read more.


The words, "For days I sadly hung round the yard, watching the three sogged remains" and "the fear came back" suggest he was affected by the carnage and murder he witnessed. However, toward the end of the poem he is forced to accept the killing and torture. Heaney became numb, unfeeling and almost deadened. This is shown in the words, "I just shrug, 'Bloody pups'. It makes sense". He is almost imitating Dan Taggart at this point to justify his actions, so he doesn't feel guilty. Heaney is deceived by Dan Taggart to protect him from his compassion. Towards the end of the poem he seems to understand the killing, but his description of the kittens throughout the poem suggests differently. He seems confused, saying two separate things at the same time. The poem is ambiguous and vague, as Heaney changes significantly and considerably towards the end of the poem. This childhood experience allows him to express two different feelings. He feels guilt, but is also pressurised to become accustomed to the killing of the "pests". ...read more.


This theme may reflect Heaney's life as he lived in the time of the Irish Civil war. The poem may therefore have been affected by his childhood experiences of war. Poem is about how we lose innocence. It is ambiguous and ironic - poet appears to endorse the view that "sentiments" displaced by "living" are "false", but ends with an unconvincing clich�: "Pests have to be kept down", and a cheap jeer at townies. In fact the young Heaney's reaction is the one the poet really approves. The Poem recalls a particular incident (the "first" time Heaney, as a boy, witnessed the farmhand killing kittens) and how he (the poet) became used to this in time. Now, he writes, he has a similar indifference to the death of animals. Dan Taggart justifies action by suggesting the kitten have no values "scraggy wee shits" and adult Heaney does the same, even swearing like Dan Taggart "bloody pups". We see older person try to deceive child to protect him from his compassion ("Sure isn't it better for them now?" - but the child is not convinced). ...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

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. 'The Early Purges' by Seamus Heaney focuses on the traumas of childhood, and how ...

    killing these animals; rats eat grain stores, rabbits chew crops, old hens are useless, and crows attack lambs. Also these animals (with the exception of the hens) are also free, they are not in any way helpless, they are free to escape to the best of their ability, the idea

  2. How Seamus Heaney Evokes the Sensations and Emotions of Childhood by Comparing any Three ...

    like, but the 'great' gives you some impression that it must be a large implement. In "Mid-Term Break", Heaney starts by saying that the bells 'knelled' (Line 2) classes to a close. A 'knell' is a bell rang by churches to mark a funeral, I think this is an effective

  1. Compare and contrast the way Seamus Heaney and D.H Lawrence depict childhood feelings and ...

    as if in his cot' it was hard to believe that he was dead. This memory is obviously a very clear one in Seamus' mind as he remembers times and images very clearly ('at two o'clock our neighbours drove me home.')This reveals that this event has undoubtably been greatly impacted

  2. "The Past is another country and they do things differently there" an essay on ...

    In the third line of the first stanza and the first line of the second stanza, Heaney creates an image, gives an atmosphere that you can almost see and hear. '...A frail metal sound...' is a phrase, which is not quite onomatopoeic, but gives a similar concept.

  1. What do the poems "Churning Day" and "An Advancement of Learning" tell us about ...

    hours" whereas if they had machinery the work would have been done quick and easier. Heaney had a simple upbringing. Heaney had what he needed and what was necessary, this was because Ireland was slightly behind in Heaney's time. Heaney is exposed to nature quite a lot.

  2. What are the preoccupations of Seamus Heaney’s poetry and how does he explore them?

    "To scatter new potatoes that we picked loving their cool hardness in our hands." Heaney describes the feelings he got when he scattered the potatoes and that he loved their feeling because they were very important in his day. "The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap of

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