Literary Devices In Digging By Seamus Heaney

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Poetry can be used to tell the story of generations. Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging” is one prime example, showing how Seamus differs from his father and grandfather who spent their lives carrying out hard, arduous labor with spades while Seamus prefers the less physically challenging task of writing with his pen. “Digging” uses a plethora of poetic devices to expand on the progression of Seamus as he realizes and shifts from his origins of digging deep into the Earth for resources, to digging into his own values to achieve self gratitude. The main devices used within the poem allow the reader to understand the physical and emotional side of Seamus’ observations through structure, rhythm, and sound.
‘Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests…” (lines 1-2) This opening makes the finger and thumb seem like the focus, however the pen quickly becomes the subject and sole focus when the stanza ends. The pen is then compared “the squat pen rests; snug as a gun”(2) along with the image of the pen being as powerful of a tool as a gun is, Seamus was also able to subtly put assonance in this stanza with the lines “snug as a gun” and “pen rests” the vowels are the same, creating internal rhyme throughout the lines. Within stanza two, the speaker is interrupted from the focus of the pen by “a clean rasping sound”. The word choice of “rasping” creates a distinct unpleasant sound that one can imagine as the father digs with the spade. This is complemented in the next line, when the speaker allows the reader to visualize the process of digging into the ground. While the viewer is picturing this scene they are also being shown both end rhyming with the lines “sound/ground” (3-4) and alliteration “...spade sinks...” and “...gravelly ground:...” allowing the flow of the poem to strengthen. The fifth line contradicts this by breaking the rhythm structure with expressionless with non-rhythmic words, this does help the the poem to move on to the next stanza where the reader gets a closer look into who Seamus’ father is.
Seamus’s father is shown as an older man who has spent most of his life working as a farmer, “Till his straining rump.../bends low, comes up twenty years away/...where he was digging” Seamus see’s his

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