Seamus Heaney

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Write a close analysis of ‘Death of a Naturalist’ explaining how the poet uses natural imagery and the structure of the poem to convey the themes of the loss of childhood innocence and the formulation of adult identities. How typical is it of the collection ‘Death of a Naturalist’ in terms of the representation of these themes? Seamus Heaney was born in Northern Ireland in 1939. Heaney’s father was a farmer, and a cattle dealer, he was also very popular within the community. It can be said that Seamus Heaney’s reference to farming and love of nature can be due to his upbringing, as well as his regular mention of love and pride for Northern Ireland. Seamus Heaney’s feelings towards Ireland’s cultural controversies are addressed in the majority of his poems, this brings Irish and English literary traditions to attention, and many critics have praised him for the particular attribute. Natural imagery conveys the theme of childhood innocence in ‘Death of a Naturalist’ with the use of ‘childish’ language for example ‘bubbles gargled delicately’, has a paradox effect as the statement is contradictory, it also carries the sense of childhood innocence as playing with bubbles is an activity associated with children. Also, ‘gargled’ is onomatopoeic and pleasant sounding. The quote emphasises children’s innocence and naive outlook on the world and nature. The use of ‘swimming tadpoles’, ‘daddy frog’, ‘mammy frog and ‘little eggs’, all depict an image of childhood innocence, through the basic ‘childlike’ language used as well as the family links, for example ‘mammy’ and ‘daddy’ depict the happy-go-lucky ideology that many young children have, again suggesting that the speaker is a naive, young child. ‘But best of all was the warm thick slobber’, the unattractive, slime is something that appeals to children, conveying further the theme of childhood innocence. The structure also plays a role in conveying the theme of childhood innocence. The whole first stanza has an ignorant tone to it, with the message that nature is amazing, and so problem free, ‘there were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies, but best of all was the warm thick slobber’ the tone being so simple minded, as although the speaker is describing the most beautiful aspects of nature, they are fascinated with the thick slobber that appeals to children. The fact that they describe it as ‘best of all’ shows the simplicity of a child’s innocence, and what little it takes to amuse them. It also creates the image of a beautiful happy natural world that appeals to children. There is also a tone that carries a sense of fascination, ‘for they were yellow in the sun and brown in rain.’ Because speaker is quite interested in, or fascinated by the frog spawn, and we know this due to the tone of the poem ‘best of all’ etc, we are introduced to the fetish by the constant positive description of nature. This could reflect to the phase that many children go through, or it could by symbolic of when a child learns something new, so applies it to all aspects of life. The use of enjambment ‘here, every spring I would full jampotfuls of the jellied specks...’ creates a sense of excitement, the disability to pause, due to the thorough interest emphasises a childlike fetish and innocence. Natural imagery conveys the theme of adult identities emerging, the second stanza starts off with ‘Then’ this appears as though the speaker is reminiscing on their childhood, which suggests the formulation of adult identity. The speaker suggests that as a child they were blind or unaware to the reality of the frogspawn, ‘To a coarse croaking that I had not heard before.’ The alliteration of ‘coarse croaking’ contrasts to the positive tone used in the first stanza, the quote appears to suggest that the speaker has experienced realisation, or reality, as they...
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