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Heaney’s Digging: His Basis for Writing

Digging, a poem written by Seamus Heaney, discusses the author in his decision not to follow his forebears’ farming way of life and instead stand by his resolution of being a writer. Here, it is apparent that the employment of several figurative languages and techniques serve to emphasize the message that the said poem attempts to convey, adding to the effectiveness of the poem, in general.

Thus, by exhibiting several techniques, from metaphors, imagery, rhyme, and other methods which aim to provide the readers with a clear and distinct message, the said poem has presented the character in a manner that is very distinct that the readers are able to understand the author’s basis for his decision. The poem greets us with a metaphor in the lines, “Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests; as snug as a gun” (Heaney lines 1-2), wherein as an opening thought, the reader is made to understand of the author’s unyielding determination to be a writer, as evidenced by his comparison of a pen to a gun.

This is to be supplemented in the lines, “the curt cuts of an edge through living roots awaken in my head” (Heaney lines 26-27), where again the notion that the author has no intention of pursuing a life of farming is emphasized. Repeatedly, this idea is intoned in the poem. It becomes the main focal point of argument that the said literary piece endeavors to express to its readers. It is worth noting that there exists a connection between the first and the last paragraphs, where apparently the only difference is to be found in the last phrases: “as snug as a gun” (Heaney line 2), and “I’ll dig with it” (Heaney line 31).

The first clearly describes the author’s desire to write, while the latter expounds on his desire to make his pen as his spade; his tool for his chosen profession. This adds to the revelation of the character as a person who possesses the belief that his writing vocation is a more respectable profession than farming. This is likewise evident on the second stanza, wherein an image describing him being inside of the house watching his father do his manual work is found in the line, “My father digging. I look down” (Heaney line 5).

In looking down, the author inclines us to perceive not only in the literal sense of him being on a higher ground, but more so in his belief on the inferiority of farm work as compared to writing. Imagery is also utilized in lines 3 to 5, wherein the reader is explained of the scenery and circumstances in which the author has written his poem; deliberately presenting to the reader his feelings towards farming. Likewise, the poem exhibits several symbolisms that aim to either enhance the message or to create a character of the protagonist in the poem.

One of these is the line, “Once I carried him milk in a bottle corked sloppily with paper” (Heaney lines 19-20), wherein his crude if not untidy way of packing the milk bottle tells of his sloppiness in manual labor. Likewise, the window in line 3 seem to symbolize the wall that separates his interests from those of his forefathers, especially when taking into consideration line 5 which states, “My father digging. I look down” (Heaney line 5). In order to strengthen the author’s claim that his father and those before him were farmers, he used the farmer’s boots as a symbol.

This can be seen in lines 10-11, wherein “The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft against the inside knee was levered firmly” (Heaney) makes his claim apparent. Here, the author expresses his desire to break away from expectations of him following the family tradition of farming, as expressed by his choice of the words nestled and levered firmly. Several methods are being employed by the author to emphasize the clarity of the aforementioned poem.

Hence, it is evident that in the first stanza, Assonance is used to have the desired effect, particularly with the words thumb, snug, and gun, while in the second stanza, the use of Consonance can be seen in the words sound, ground, and used in turn as an Assonance for the word down in line five. As such, the poem does not possess a single form of rhyme, but is in fact a combination of the different methods which results to emphasize the smoothness and the clarity of the given literary piece.

The diversity of the author’s method can also be seen in the stanzas that comprise the poem. As such, the first stanza is a Couplet in nature, the second a Tercet, the third a Quatrain, the fourth a Cinqain, with the sixth stanza forming the most lines by being an Octave. Conclusion Through the different methods that Healey uses in his poem, Digging, the character of the protagonist is effectively revealed.

As such, through them, the words become symbols in themselves that possess the capability to make the readers understand the literal as well as the implied themes that the author intends to convey. Through techniques such as metaphor, imagery, rhyme, and the technicalities involved in symbolism, stanza, assonance, consonance, and others that were discussed, were are able to fully comprehend the argument or the claim that the author presents in order to justify his basis for not following on the profession of his forebears and instead practice the art of writing.

Thus, more than the effectiveness of the author’s diverse methods of presenting his poem, it is in the seeming unity of all the different factors that forms to be a single and highly effective literary work of art, where the true essence of the poem’s value lies; making us understand the persona of the character and his reasons behind his decision. Work Cited Heaney, Seamus. Digging. 1966. 8 August 2010 <http://www. wussu. com/poems/shdigg. htm>

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