Describe His Father In The Poem By Seamus Heaney

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Seamus Heaney mentions his father in three different poems: ‘Digging,’ ‘Follower,’ and ‘Mid-Term Break.’ In the three poems, Heaney’s portrayal of his father, as well as his voice, changes into two different images. One of it portrays his father as a leader and role model, while the other portrays him as a frail and fragile being from Heaney’s broken fantasy.

In the first part of his poems, ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower,’ Heaney portrays his father as godly, fully admiring his father. He uses overstatements and hyperbole, such as ‘An expert’ and ‘more than any other man,’ to emphasise his respect and admiration for his father’s work. His use of imagery, rhyme scheme, and cultural background also intensifies his dream to become a man like his
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Heaney seems to have lost his ideal image of his father as a hero as his fantasy breaks, informing the audience of his father’s true state. In ‘Follower,' such exposure is clearly conveyed in the last three lines of the poem, whereby Heaney comments ‘But today it is my father who keeps stumbling behind me, and will not go away.’ His diction ‘stumbling’ makes the audience infer that Heaney now thinks of his father in a slightly negative way, as he is unsteady and weakened by age. This also creates a parallel image with Heaney himself: when he was younger, he ‘stumbled’ and ‘fell sometimes.’ The similarity created between a toddler and his father shows what Heaney sees in his father: someone who is feeble and old. His commenting that his father is ‘behind’ also shows that Heaney thinks of his father to be unable to keep up with him and the vast changes in the world. The broken image of his mentor is also clearly shown in ‘Mid-Term Break,’ where he is away from his family as his ‘neighbours drove’ him ‘home.’ This evokes thought to the readers that Heaney had been detached from his family. Therefore, the shock of watching his role model shatter is sudden and subtle when he ‘met my father crying-’ ‘in the porch.’ The caesura at the end conveys the external expression of his father’s grief and the poet’s shock in seeing…show more content…
The juxtaposition in ‘Mid-Term Break,’ in which the family is grieving whilst ‘the baby cooed and laughed’ shows the obliviousness of a child and the change of perspective as he grew old enough for ‘old men’ to be ‘standing up to shake my hand.’ The contrast that Heaney sees as a child and an adult leads him to be reflective and nostalgic towards his childhood, as he changes his voice to that of an adult. In ‘Follower,’ Heaney describes his past, when he ‘was a nuisance,’ comparing the moment to his old and weakened father. In ‘Digging,’ the change of voice makes the poet reflect upon the differences between his father as his guidance and his father’s true self, and thereby decide not to be perfectly equal to his father, arguing that he’ll ‘dig with’ ‘the squat pen’ rather than ‘the spade’ that his father had used. The final line in the poem reflects the poet as an adult who needs to choose his own path in life. The reminiscence of respect he once held towards his father is still content within him as he wishes to follow the tradition of ‘Digging,’ yet refuses to be exactly the same as his father, in order not to gain the same weakened self that his father has received after his journey. His father is still portrayed as a mentor but is altered in the way that the poet sees him: a figure that is more realistic and humane, with growing
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