Digging at the Roots of Tradition
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Seamus Heaney’s Digging is a free verse poem, written in the first person narrative, which focuses on the speaker exploring his family's history whilst trying to decide his own future. The speaker is writing the poem while observing his father digging in the potato fields outside his window. Throughout the poem, the speaker goes into detail describing the laborious jobs that both his father and grandfather have fulfilled; all the while portraying his great respect and admiration. However, as revealed at the end of the piece, the speaker has decided that he is better suited for life as a writer than as a farmer. Thus, Digging becomes a piece of writing focused on the subject of writing itself.
Heaney’s poem begins with the line, “Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.” This line suggests that the writer is holding the pen with a tight grip; alluding to him feeling tense. This tense feeling could be attributed to the speaker's worry of breaking the family farming tradition by choosing to become a writer. In the poem, he seems to be sitting in his room, weighing his options between becoming a writer and following the tradition of digging the fields. He is tightly gripping his pen while observing his father below working hard, undecided about which path to take. His evident respect for his father and his work becomes clear when he says, “By God, the old man could handle a spade, just like his old man.” This line also tells the reader that there are generations of potato farmers involved in his family; emphasizing the risk he would be taking by choosing a different career path as a writer. It is also important to notice Heaney's shocking simile: "as snug as a gun." The use of the word "snug" first leaves the reader with a comforting image of peaceful, contemplative writing. However, after the...
Cited: Heaney, Seamus. “Digging”, The Broadview Introduction to Literature: Poetry. Ed. Lisa Chalykoff et al. Peterborough: Broadview Press 2013. 339-340. Print.
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