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Seamus Heaney's eight-sonnet suite Clearances

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Clearances In Seamus Heaney's eight-sonnet suite 'Clearances' the Heaney reflects on the intimate and complex relationship between him and his mother. Particularly poignant are the last two sonnets, which describe the immediate emotions caused by the mother's death and the void that her absence creates. The effective use of enjambment, the visual images and metaphors created in the two sonnets reveal the clearance of the mother's death translate deep into the consciousness of the family. In Sonnet Seven, Heaney describes the gathering of the whole family to be with the mother in the 'last minutes' of her life. In the first line, the persona refers to a 'he' who later talks to the mother. The identification of this man is ambiguous but the use of the third person invites the reader to be physically present in the scene. It seems as if the reader is also watching this man, presumably the mother's husband, from a distance. The husband speaks to the mother recalling Monday nights in 'New Row' and affectionately calling her 'good' and 'girl'. ...read more.


In line eleven, the 'space [that they] stood around had been emptied' almost deceives the reader into believing that the 'emptiness' and the mother's death is decisive as the end of her life. However, in the line following, the 'emptiness' has actually penetrated 'into [them] to keep'. Heaney creates a beautiful image of the deceased mother's soul and the memories penetrating into the clearance that her physical absence has created to live inside of him. Therefore 'high cries' and extreme mourning has been stifled by the 'pure change' of her soul emptying into the family members. Grief seems almost inappropriate for such a powerful catharsis, whereby the impact of the mother and her essence is beyond the shell of her body. In Sonnet Eight, the persona reflects on the continuation of his life without the presence of his mother. In lines one and two, the persona is walking into his own clearance where his mother once was. He describes the clearance paradoxically as 'utterly empty, utterly a source'. The space of absence is not only a place of grief, but he also feels a close connection with it. ...read more.


From lines twelve to fourteen, the mother departs from being like the tree because although the tree is 'deep-planted and long gone', the mother is not 'long gone' nor can she be contained. On the contrary, she is 'ramifying' or branching out. Her death can be seen as a 'bright nowhere', both negative and illuminating. However, perceiving his mother's death as more enlightening than as adverse the persona chose to go beyond his mother's physical death, enabling her 'silence' to [ramify]' into him. The repetition of 'silent' then 'silence' in line fourteen emphasizes further the significance of always being alert and attentative to the memory of his mother. In Sonnet Seven and Eight of 'Clearances', Heaney pays tribute to his mother's life, celebrating her eternal impression in his life. It is not only admirable but also overwhelming to try and truly comprehend such a complex and intense revelation. The sonnets reflect the way in which the death of an intimate person may be understood, accommodated, contained and transformed into something more profound. From the sonnets transcends an age-old knowledge of the preciousness of an individual. Janice Bae 3rd, September, 2002 ...read more.

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