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    Compare Heaney’s presentation of his father in ‘Digging’ and the ‘Follower’ Essay

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    The two poems ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ are very similar. As evidence both poems refer to the earth and the different job that are related with the earth. ‘Digging’ is about Heaney digging into his memories about his father and grandfather. ‘Follower’ is ambiguous as Heaney followed his father literally and metaphorically in his memory. In both of the poems the child compares himself to his father and grandfather.

    There are several developed metaphors that compare the father and his work to the ocean in the ‘Follower’:

    “His shoulders globed like a full sail strung”

    Heaney looks at his father from a child’s point of view as children see everything as being bigger than them. The quotation is a reference to the father’s shoulders being large like the billowing sail of a ship. “Mapping the furrow,” tells the reader that it is like navigating a ship. This tells the reader that his eyes are excellent so that he is able to plough in straight lines. As the father ploughs “the sods” roll over “without breaking” like a wave and if the child stumbles “in his wake” the father puts him on his back as the dips and rises on his father’s back. The reader feels that son admires his father and the way he worked.

    The person in the poem “Digging” feels pride in both his father and grandfather as they started to dig the peat:

    “My grandfather cut more turf in a day

    Than any other man on Toner’s bog.”

    This poem has a looser structure that the “Follower” as it looks at two memories the first memory is of his father as he was digging the potato drills the second memory was of his grandfather as he was digging the turf for which he was famous as the best digger on the peat bog. The word ‘My’ is interesting because it shows how the grandchild has pride in the way that his grandfather dug. In both the poems the poet does not celebrate their strengths but their expertise at digging.

    The poet explains in detail the knowledge and the skill of the father digging in both of the poems:

    “…Coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft against the inside knee was levered firmly.”

    In this quotation the poet explains the digger’s technique in a lot of detail. The phrase ‘Coarse boot nestled’ is appealing as he describes in detail that the rough boot was firmly placed on the spade. This is relevant as it shows the reader that his father is also securely located in his mind. His was in awe when he saw his father use the spade, as he was amazed he could use a spade as well as his father.

    Heaney feels that he was too inadequate to ploughing as he was always stumbling and was always clumsy:

    “I wanted to grow up and plough,

    To close one eye, stiffen my arm.”

    Heaney’s view of farming is of imitating the father’s actions as the title of the poem ‘Follower’ tells the reader that he is a child impersonating his father. The child recalls his father’s admiration of him when he was younger, but now his father walks behind him. This metaphor runs through the poem, but now the positions are reversed. “Stumbling behind me, and will not go away” his father is not literally behind him, but he is troubled by his memory perhaps because he feels guilt at not carrying on the tradition of farming, or he feels he can not live up to his father’s example.

    When the child compares himself to his father and grandfather he is very negative in both of the poems:

    “Once I carried him milk in a bottle

    Corked sloppily with paper.”

    In the poem ‘Digging’ the child compares himself to his grandfather who sliced the soil so neatly, when the child opened a milk bottle and left bits of the cork around the inside. This shows the read that the child was clumsy at doing physical things. The grandfather wastes no time while drinking of digging he is almost robotic as he makes sharp movements as his spade digging into the ground.

    Heaney uses onomatopoeic to give the audio imagery of the father making the noise:


    These words are frequently used at the end of the line on a rhyming word. The rhyme is in quatrains with eight syllables. ‘An expert’ is a phrase written without a verb in the sentence because it makes an impact on the reader. It also tells them that a farmer is not seen as simple but highly skilled. The regular beat of the rhythm indicates there is no impact on him when he puts the child on his back whilst ploughing.

    The child compares himself to his father and grandfather in the poem ‘Digging’:

    “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.”

    The second stanza is about how he sees his father ‘straining’ to dig the ‘flowerbeds’ in his memory he is in his prime, digging ‘potato drills’ and even earlier his grandfather was digging peat. The child thinks that he is unable to match ‘men like them’ with a spade, but he sees that the pen is mightier for him, and with the pen he will dig into his past and celebrate them. As he honours how skilfully they worked as the father is still digging in his old age and his grandfather barley stopped to drink in his memory.

    There is a one main metaphor, which has been extended throughout the whole poem:

    “When the spade sinks into gravely ground:”

    This central extended metaphor of digging and roots shows how the poet in writing is digging back into his roots finding his identity and where his family comes from. The poem is just beginning when it ends, but only at the end does he see the pen as a weapon for digging not literally but metaphorically in his mind.

    The main theme in both of the poems is the child looking back into his past and watching his father work on the farm. The child presents his father as a man who is hard working and he never feels tried even if he does have his son on his back. The child presents himself as clumsy and a nuisance as he was always yapping away. I enjoyed the poem ‘Digging’ because I liked how he begun and ended the poem with the same line. I also liked the way that he said that he could use the pen as a weapon the write the truth.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Compare Heaney’s presentation of his father in ‘Digging’ and the ‘Follower’ Essay. (2017, Oct 17). Retrieved from

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