Consider Digging by Seamus Heaney. What impression do you get of the character, his ambitions and his background? How does he convey these ideas to the reader? The poem starts with the short two line stanza of “Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests; snug as a gun. ” The ending simile shows that he is comfortable holding a pen through use of the word ‘snug’ as this conveys feelings of tightness and security but also that the pen is powerful because it can be used as a weapon. In the second stanza, there is use of onomatopoeia when he hears a “clean rasping sound” of his father digging into the “gravelly ground”.
The alliteration here creates rhythm but also suggests the continuous movement of digging as it sounds like someone digging their spade in repeatedly. At the end of the stanza there is a use of enjambment between the next one, the line is “I look down till his straining rump among the flowerbeds bends low, comes up twenty years away”. The enjambment could represent the physical gap of looking down as we know the father is digging under Heaney’s window or it could be that he finds himself above manual labour or it could be a dramatic gap of time because his father “comes up twenty years away” showing that the poet is now referring to a memory.
From this point on the poem is in a different tense: in the previous stanza, it says “My father, digging. ” Which is present tense and at the end of the third stanza it says “Where he was digging. ” Which is past tense; there is a contrast between the two. The fourth stanza is about the technique his father uses to root out the “tall tops”. The alliteration of these words almost sounds mechanical which could represent his father’s work ethic: he works like a machine. The stanza after is another short two lines, it reads “By God, the old man could handle a spade.
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Just like his old man. ” The exclamation of “By God” shows admiration and pride over the tradition that runs in his family without actually having to use an exclamation mark and its importance is highlighted because it has its own stanza. The repetition of the word “old” contrasts to the one use of “new” in the previous stanza, when referring to potatoes that they had picked. The sixth stanza carries on in admiration of his grandfather saying that he could “cut more turf in a day than any other man on Toner’s bog”.
The reader will not know of “Toner’s bog” but it gives a personal feel. Heaney then goes on to say how he once carried him milk and shows his grandfather’s strong work ethic through enjambment because “He straightened up To drink it, then fell to right away Nicking and slicing neatly” – he doesn’t even take time for a break. The gap between “right away” and “nicking” could be a representation of his grandfather bending down to get back to work. The use of “neatly” shows that this man is efficient and knows what he is doing.
This is enforced by “going down and down” because the repetition shows the amount of effort going in, he won’t stop. The penultimate stanza uses the senses a lot to create an image. The use of smell: “the cold smell of potato mould”, this is quite odd as cold is not usually associated with smell but more with touch. Heaney uses onomatopoeia for sound “the squelch and slap of soggy peat”. The use of the word “soggy” let’s the reader know how the peat feels. It makes them think of clingy and sticky mud.
Alliteration is used to create sharp sounds: “the curt cuts of an edge through living roots awaken in my head. ” These sharp sounds could represent him severing his ties with the family tradition of digging because the next line reads “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them”, he is different to all the men in his family. The term “living roots” probably refers to his father digging below his window causing him to have the flashback because from this point on the poem goes back to present tense, demonstrating that he is back in the present.
Man + Woman = Family "The Catholic bishops of Alaska have urged their people to approve a state constitutional amendment declaring that a valid marriage may exist between one man and one woman." A decision made last February by Supreme Court Judge Peter Michalski opened the door to change the nature of marriage. It dismisses male and female sexuality as an important role in marriage. It eliminates ...
The final stanza is short again and mostly monosyllabic. I think it represents how isolated how is from his family because of his different career choice. Heaney repeats “Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests” however there has been a change of view, instead of using it as a weapon he will “dig with it”. It is now his way to earn a living. The title “Digging” when you first read it before reading the poem, the reader thinks that the poem is literally on about that. However after reading the poem, the reader realises it is about digging up memories.
There is no regular pattern to the structure of the poem; the stanzas are all uneven lengths. This could show how confused he is about his career choice; the messy structure represents a messy mind. The poem clearly shows Seamus Heaney admires the hard labour of his relatives but in the end he has come to the realisation that his career choice can be a way to earn a living too – or maybe it was the only way to use his skills as in the memory his relatives are digging for fuel and for potatoes and his father has now resorted to digging flowers, this could hint that the profession has died out.