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How Seamus Heaney's Childhood Affected His Poetry Essay

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How 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. It is about a particular incident and how we lose
innocence, describing the effects of Heaney witnessing the killing of
"frail" and "tiny" kittens. The words, "Soft paws scraping like mad"
suggests how helpless and vulnerable the kittens are; they are so
small that they are unable to climb out of the bucket. The word,
"soft" indicates a feeling of guilt about destroying the helpless
kittens. The kittens are made to seem innocent and vulnerable through
the language used. The words, "frail metal sound" and "tiny din" imply
that the kittens don't make enough noise to be significant. They are
only small and powerless. Metal cannot be described as frail but the
kittens illustrate this. Also din cannot be express...


... middle of paper ...


...ut 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 cliché: "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).


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