Last Updated 21 Mar 2023

Symbols in Digging by Seamus Heaneypoem

Category Digging, Poetry, Writer
Words 329 (2 pages)
Views 1177

In the poem “Digging”, Seamus Heaney explores the differences between generations of men in his family through retracing the past. It is a poem of love and respect for the achievements of his father and grandfather as a digger, but at the same time comparing the traditional occupation to his own way of “digging” as a writer. Heaney expresses a sense of isolation and resemblance he feels toward his family by using significant symbols throughout the poem.

In the first stanza, Heaney introduces the readers to his pen, which he is content to hold as he finds a sense of belonging and comfort. The pen is described as a weapon, “snug as a gun” (2), this gives the impression that the pen fits naturally in his hands and symbolizes a form of protection from the criticisms about his choice of being a writer. His decision creates a form barrier or isolation between Heaney and his father, as implied when Heaney observes his father digging through a window.

The plane of glass stands in as a physical separation between father and son, yet it also corresponds to the psychological barrier that built up in their relationship when Heaney decides to follow his dream as a writer. In order to do so, he must break away from the family’s traditional means of earning a living, just like how a spade makes a “curt cuts/through living roots”(26-27). Even though Heaney chooses not to become a digger, he still finds a sense of resemblance between the two polar occupations.

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Heaney recognizes that his skill with a pen is compatible to his forefathers’ skill with a spade, as he suggests his pen symbolizes a spade to which he can “dig with it”(31). Heaney is, in his form of digging, always searching for topics or good materials that can make his pieces unique and meaningful, just like how his grandfather continued “going down and down for the good turf” as he digs (23-24).

Symbols in Digging by Seamus Heaneypoem essay

Related Questions

on Symbols in Digging by Seamus Heaneypoem

What does the pen symbolize in Seamus Heaney's digging?
In Seamus Heaney's poem "Digging," the pen symbolizes the poet's connection to his family's history and his own identity as a writer. It is a tool that allows him to explore his past and to create something new, a bridge between the past and the present.
What are the main themes of the poem digging?
The main themes of the poem "Digging" are identity, family, and heritage. The poem explores the speaker's relationship to his family and his Irish heritage, and how his identity is shaped by his ancestry and his work as a poet. The poem also touches on themes of hard work, tradition, and the importance of connecting with one's roots.
What are the major literary devices used in the poem digging?
The major literary devices used in the poem "Digging" are personification, metaphor, and alliteration. Personification is used to give human qualities to inanimate objects, such as when the speaker refers to his pen as a "living drill." Metaphor is used to compare two unlike things, such as when the speaker compares his pen to a "squat pen rest." Finally, alliteration is used to create a rhythm and emphasize certain words, such as when the speaker says "Between my finger and my thumb."
What personal elements do you find in Heaney's poem?
Heaney's poem contains many personal elements, such as his memories of his childhood, his relationship with his father, and his reflections on the natural world. He also uses vivid imagery to evoke a sense of nostalgia and longing for the past.

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