The poem ‘The Early Purges' by Seamus Heaney is the poet's adult reflection on his childhood experience on a farm in Northern Ireland. The poet describes in first person witnessing kittens being drowned and through this, the development of his maturity, changing attitudes are perceived. The poem is insightful of the emotions experienced by Heaney when witnessing the deaths of the pests. The different viewpoints and contrasts of the town and countryside are also exhibited throughout the poem.
One central feature of the poem is the poet's use of imagery to highlight the theme of animal cruelty and the poet's attitude towards this.
When Heaney describes the kittens "soft paws scraping", it highlights the idea of the kittens being innocent by using the word ‘soft'. This in particular makes the kittens sound harmless, while ‘scraping' shows the reader that they are seen as innocent and desperate. This emphasizes the poet's empathy towards the kittens. In particular, Heaney juxtaposes the ‘soft' with ‘soused' describing what has been done to the kittens. This allows a comparison between the two words and by doing this; the poet has made the drowning of the kittens seem so horrifying and cruel. Moreover, Heaney uses an oxymoron to describe the kittens as "glossy and dead," here this imagery shows the clear contrast between the kittens being shiny as if new but dead. The contrast of the two words is absurd and this highlights the idea of the cruelty towards the poor kittens as well as it shows the stress on the fact that they are actually dead.
Furthermore, the turning point in the poem emphasizes the changing attitudes of Heaney towards the slaughter of these animals. When the pests are objectified as ‘old summer dung', it shows that Heaney has stopped thinking of them as soft kittens but merely as nothing more than a pest. This helps highlight the changing attitudes of the poet as it was clear that before he showed great sympathy towards these...
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