Essay on Imagery and Allegory in the Seamus Heaney's Poem, The Skunk

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Seamus Heaney uses imagery and allegory to enhance the theme of memory in “The Skunk”. The poem focuses on the image of a skunk and compares a brief image of the speaker's wife preparing for bed. The poem examines the speaker’s longing for his wife while he is away. Near the end of the poem, the first three stanzas are revealed as having been a scene from the speaker’s memory, when living away from his wife in California. The reader is introduced to the skunk in the first stanza. It is an intruder in the speaker’s California garden. Immediately, the image of the skunk’s tail is striking: “Up, erect, and damasked like the chasuble at a funeral mass.” Throughout the poem, the animal’s appearance evokes the memory of clothing from the…show more content…
Thought in the passage, “the chasuble at a funeral mass” is used to allude to the skunk resembling a priest but it also intensifies the poem’s melancholy and longing tone. There is also a religious undertone. Being with his wife is a regularity, or comparable to a religious ritual that the speaker is missing. Early in the poem, the speaker’s feminization of the skunk: he expects “her like a visitor”, foreshadows the contrast of the skunk and his wife later in the poem. The speaker explains that he became a “tense voyeur” while watching the animal. This doesn’t fit at this point in the poem. “Voyeur” has a perversely sexual overtone. Tense is synonymous with rigid and stiff which suggest a male sexual reaction. The word choice does not fit the depiction of a man observing animal. The hint to the speaker’s psychical desire for his wife is replaced with a long devotion in the next stanza. He uses the image of a stored cask, as if its slender vowel had mutated into the night earth and air”. The image of the “cold pillow”, devoid of a warm body, represents her absence. The speaker describes the skunk as “ordinary” and “demythologized” because it is literally a just an animal “less than five feet” in front of him, roaming his garden. However, it is simultaneously, “mysterious” and “mythologized” because it is an image powerful enough to connect to different places in time and call to mind an incredibly vivid

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