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Theme Of Punishment By Seamus Heaney

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As is evident in several of his works, Seamus Heaney was preoccupied by the sectarian subject during the period known as the Troubles in Northern Ireland. However, other preoccupations emanated from it: his need to find his poetic voice when pressured to speak for his own community; and the etymological study of the local landscape and its colloquialism. Firstly, this essay will analyse how Heaney dealt directly with the sectarian subject through three strands; pre-Troubles sectarianism, internal community sectarian punishment and the sectarian murder of family and friends. Secondly, it will examine the development of his poetic voice in his attempt to determine his role as a poet. Thirdly, it will also assess Heaney’s etymological study of…show more content…
The poets voice is one of a voyeur, visualising the past life of a girl who was punished for adultery. After a description that enlivens the bog body, the poem culminates with Heaney addressing the paralysing emotional experience of being a voyeur to such "tribal, intimate revenge." Heaney measures his sense of injustice against a community’s brutal intolerance of rules perceived to have been violated. He illustrates the troubling irony: stone-age justice that puts an adulteress to death is not so far removed from contemporary Northern-Irish society that punishes when a community’s sectarian rules are seen to be breached. Parker puts it that “conflicting loyalties, pity and guilt, private and collective, supply ‘Punishment’ with its emotional charge.”

‘The Grauballe Man’ provides a close description of an iconic bog body on display and reveals Heaney’s emotional responses to it. The first half of the poem is a description of each part of the bog body. Heaney uses dark imagery in conjunction with distinctly human qualities to give the man a spiritual persistence: “the black river of himself.” The poem then speculates on his past life and ends with him shedding the memories of that past. The idea that man’s barbaric treatment of his fellows is never far away; associated ideas link the fate of Grauballe Man with contemporary events in Northern
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