Digging by Semus Heaney: Close Reading Analysis

Digging by Seamus Heaney appears to be a poem about his actual family, in reality, it is about the stereotypical male role from past to present. Society has been made to believe that the males traditional way of earning a living is through hard work and manual labor and it has been this way for centuries. This poem is Heaneys’ way of coming to realization that “digging”, or hard labor, was not for him and he is going against what society says and chooses to do something that his heart is into.

He mentions many things in this poem on his feelings towards his decision and does so using detailed imagery, irony, and word play. One thing being that he felt a sense of superiority over the laborers because they were doing something that they had to do, while he was doing something that he wanted to do. Not only did he look down upon them for that reason, but also because he knew that he was much more educated than them. It was not said in the poem but is implied because it takes much more knowledge to become a profound writer than a man who plants and plows potatoes.Although it seems as if Heaney worried about whether or not the “men” before him would accept his decision to become a writer, he tried to relate what he was doing to that of what other men in society were doing to make it more acceptable, even though he could care less about what the critics had to say because he was doing something he had a passion for and he was content with that. The first stanza of the poem is one of the present, Heaney describes how he is sitting at a desk by the window with a pen in his hand “…as snug as a gun.

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This pen symbolizes his weapon against society, showing us how he knows that people are going to critique him about his decision but he is well prepared. The window is also a symbol, it is a barrier between him and his father. One that was probably built because of his fathers non-acceptance of his sons choice of earning a living. Then he just so happens to hear his father digging down below which strikes the idea of him writing the poem.He then states “I look down…” which not only tells us that his window is elevated, but is also where he gets the sense of feeling superior over the laborers by looking down upon them. He uses words in this stanza such as “straining” and “stooping in rhythm” which paints the picture that his father may have been struggling while doing the job, but was so used to it that he was doing so in a rhythm.

Almost as though, he didn’t want to do it, but for some reason had the feeling that it must be done.This is how we get the idea that he feels superior because laborers or doing jobs they feel need to be done, but they aren’t doing what they want to do, unlike Heaney. Heaney then goes into detail on how his father is handling the spade with much skill, skill that he did not have. When he says “By God…” (line 15) it is evident that he acknowledges what the men do and applauds them for possessing such a skill because he says this line with much enthusiasm. This line is also one that sets us further back in the past, speaking of men who predeceased those like his father.

Heaney then mentions “My grandfather could cut more turf in a day Than any other man on Toner’s Bog. ” (line 17 & 18). This line tells us that the men in this era took pride in what they did for a living. Almost as if they were competing to see who was better at the job. And usually when he you take pride in something you do, you pass it down to your children.

This is where society came up with the stereotype of men in relation to manual labor and how it is the traditional way of earning a living.When he tells of the time that he brought his grandfather a bottle of milk, he describes it to be “…. corked sloppily with paper. ” Almost as though whoever corked the bottle didn’t do a good job simply because he didn’t care. This symbolizes the fact that the other men would probably not accept his decision of dealing with “paper” instead of a spade because they could care less about it. In the last few stanzas is when Heaney then realizes that in order to do what he wants he has to break away from tradition and he is ok with that.

It is almost as though he addresses the men and how they work hard one last time and credits them for choosing the path that they did because he knows that he would never be able to do such a thing. He states “But I’ve no spade to follow me like them. ” Which then confirms speculation that he has made a final decision. His last line in the poem “Between my finger…. I’ll dig with it.

” is basically his final comparison on the two polar occupations. Meaning that even though he doesn’t have a spade to dig with and perform manual labor, he has a pen to dig with.A pen that will help him dig and find more knowledge and different ways to make his writing better and more exquisite than before. The poem gives the reader a sense of encouragement because knowing that society may not always accept what you choose to do with your life because it may go against what they believe you are supposed to do, as long as it is something that your heart is into than what they say should not matter. Works Cited Page Heaney, Seamus.

“Digging. ” Death of a Naturalist. London: Faber and Faber, 1969. N. pag. Print.