Examine the theme of father and son relationships in Digging and Follower.
In the two poems, Follower and Digging by Seamus Heaney there is an obvious, strong, father and son relationship between Seamus and his father. Seamus has written the poems in accordance to his childhood.
In both poems, there are a sign of respect for each other. In Follower, Seamus praises his father a lot of his expertise: ‘His shoulders globed like a full sail strung,’ Seamus is describing his fathers well built shoulder muscles and how they globe out like a ships sail in the wind does. Seamus also respects the way that his fathers work is always perfect and nothing can go wrong: ‘The sod rolled over without breaking.’ Here, whilst at working in the farm, Seamus’ father rolls over the mud in perfect piles without breaking. He also says, ‘the polished sod,’ which conveys an image of perfect shiny piles of mud all neatly mounded in a row. In Digging, Heaney says how his father and his grandfather were both expert farmers, but he could never follow in their footsteps, ‘But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.’ This shows how Heaney respects them both, he uses the word ‘them’ to point out the different generations. Heaney shows some guilt for not becoming a respectable farmer like them when he says, ‘Through living roots awaken in my head.’ He is showing his guilt because both the men above him were experts at their farming jobs and he can never be like them, but he can be an expert at being a poet.
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Heaney shows a high amount of admiration towards his father in both poems. In Follower, Heaney explains how his father had the horses trained so well: ‘The horses strained at his clicking tongue.’ He is explaining that by the small click of his fathers tongue he can control the horses and do whatever he needs them to do, Heaney admires the way he does this. The use of complex farming vocabulary is used when Heaney says, ‘And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.’ And ‘At the headrig.’ The use of these words points out the fact that Heaney admires his father’s expertise and shows that he can also use the technical terminology because he has learnt well from his father. Another obvious point shown by Heaney is when he says, ‘I wanted to grow up and plough.’ This shows that just by watching the way his father is ploughing the fields, he immediately wants to do this in the future and become just like him. In Digging, Seamus immediately in the beginning describes his father digging into a hard gravely surface, ‘When the spade sinks into gravely ground.’ Seamus is explaining his admiration of how his father is able to dig into the rough, hard-to-dig gravel surface; this is also highlighted by the rough sounding alliteration of ‘gravely ground’ and the ease of him digging into the hard surface is shown by the sibilance of ‘spade sinks’. Obvious admiration of his father and his grandfather is shown when he says, ‘By god, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man.’ Heaney is jumping from this generation to his grandfather to show how he admires his grandfather’s expertise and his fathers.
There is also a sense of inadequacy between the two. In Follower, Heaney explains how he used to be clumsy and always causing a problem but now it is his father who is old and always messing up, ‘I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, yapping always. But today it is my father who keeps stumbling behind me and will not go away.’ What Heaney is saying in this last stanza, is that before he was unable to be like his father and he would always fail and cause problems, but now that his father is old, he is the one failing and tripping up. In Digging, Heaney shows his sense of inadequacy when he says, ‘But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.’ This shows that he cannot and will not ever try to be like his grandfather or father because he will never be good enough. Heaney also gives a graphical description of the farm when he says, ‘The cold smell of cold potato mould, the squelch and slap of soggy peat, the curt of an edge.’ This shows that the farm is not his place; the onomatopoeia supports the point of him not being able to work on a farm because it is too repulsive for him.
The feeling of guilt by Heaney is also shown, it affects the way that their father son relationship works. In Follower, there is a small sense of guilt when Heaney explains, ‘sometimes he rode me on his back Dipping and rising to his plod.’ Heaney shows a small amount of guilt because he put more strain onto his already hard working father by sitting on his back while he bent down and rose constantly. In Digging, when Heaney is talking about how he cannot be like his father and his grandfather, he try’s to cover for it by saying, ‘The squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it.’ He is trying to show that he is an expert at writing and his spade is his pen and he will dig with the pen instead of feeling guilty that he did not become a farmer like his forefathers. He shows guilt because he did not continue the tradition. End of paragraph.
In conclusion, a proper father-son relationship is shown using the aspects of Admiration of Heaney towards his fathers skills and expertise, the Childs inadequacy to become like his father and the reasons in which he will never be like him or his grandfather, the respect Heaney has for his hard-working, skilled and relentless father and the guilt Heaney eventually feels after not perusing the traditional job as a farmer and not showing that he could also become an expert like his forefathers. The End.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This essay is an honest attempt to present a reasoned analysis of these 2 poems by Heaney. Many good points are made, mostly supported by apt references to the text. Some explanations are overlong and repetitive. Paragraph and sentence structure are well-controlled throughout most of the essay, until the concluding paragraph, when the writer lets them run away with him/her. Lexis is generally up to the task. 3 stars