Once the reader can passes up the surface meaning of the poem Blackberry-Picking, by Seamus Heaney, past the emotional switch from sheer joy to utter disappointment, past the childhood memories, the underlying meaning can be quite disturbing. Hidden deep within the happy-go-lucky rifts of childhood is a disturbing tale of greed and murder. Seamus Heaney, through clever diction, ghastly imagery, misguided metaphors and abruptly changing forms, ingeniously tells the tale that is understood and rarely spoken aloud.
Seamus Heaney refers to Bluebeard at the end of stanza one. Bluebeard, according to the footnote, is a character in a fairy tale who murders his wives. Why on earth would there be a reference to a murderous pirate in a poem about blackberries? The exact metaphor is "Our hands were peppered With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's," (lines 15-16). Heaney is comparing the sticky blackberry juice on their hands to the blood shed on Bluebeard's hands, from his wives. This comparison makes the first reference to murder in the poem, rather the most obvious one. Picking blackberries is being paralleled to greed and murder by Heaney, in this poem. Murdering the blackberries is an interesting thought. Once picked off the bush out of greed, wanting the blackberries for yourself, the blackberries will only rot away, no longer able to sustain their lives. This murderous act is committed in the innocence of the speaker's childhood. The sudden change of form and emotional shift highlight his unhappiness at the realization of this, unconsciously. Realizing unconsciously seems like an oxymoron, but the speaker does not consciously realize the horrors of his actions, while deep down understands what he has done. The speaker's extreme joy from hording all the delicious blackberries turns into horror upon witnessing their fermentation (2nd stanza). The speaker realizes that all good things must come to an end. He knows that, out of his greed, he...
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