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“Follower” by Seamus Heaney is a thought-provoking poem. It raises issues such as childhood, growing up and old age. Heaney adds power to his consideration of these issues by his use of effective language. Each of these issues are vividly developed throughout the poem. Heaney introduces the theme of childhood by stressing the admiration that he had shown towards his father. Growing up is conveyed when Heaney states that he wants to be exactly like his father- a skilled farm owner. Old age is developed in the final stanza of the poem when the poet’s father has grown old and become feeble. The first line of the poem is “My father worked with a horse and plough”, this is an effective opening line. The poet’s use of the word ‘my’ instantly indicates that he is talking about himself. Moreover, the use of this word stresses the importance of the personal experience that is discussed throughout the poem. It creates emotion and therefore makes the poem easier to relate to as it is a realistic experience. Heaney discusses childhood by insisting that he was a nuisance. He writes, “I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake”. This shows that he was much smaller and weaker than his father and followed him around the farm stumbling and falling. Heaney’s use of the word ‘hob-nailed’ suggests that his father wore heavy boots, reinforcing the image of a strong, well built man. As a child, Heaney admired his father a great deal. An effective simile that conveys the father’s strength is “His shoulders globed like a full sail strung between the shafts and furrows”. Here, the simile compares the father’s shoulder muscles to the shape of a fully strung sail. By writing “the horses strained at his clicking tongue” Heaney indicates that the horses understood and obeyed his father, even when he made the slightest noise. The father’s influence is also incorporated in the second stanza when Heaney writes, “At the headrig, with a single pluck of reins, the sweating team turned round and back into the land”. This emphasises the control that his father had over the horses also, but, moreover is a run on line, enjambment. I find this aspect of the line very effective as it suggests the continuous movement of the working horses. According to Heaney’s description of his father he is indeed very skilled at his job. Heaney opens the second stanza with a simple but powerful phrase, “An expert”. I find this phrase effective as it stresses how skilled his father was using simple language. Another phrase in the second stanza that implies that his father was very skilled is “The sod rolled over without breaking”. This quality would obviously require a great deal of expertise. Heaney stresses how much of an expert his father was which shows that he admired him a lot. This reminded me of how much I respected my parents when I was young. The fifth stanza is dedicated to the theme of growing-up. Heaney discusses the strong admiration of the father by stating that he hopes to become a skilled farmer like his father. The phrase “I want to grow up and plough, to close one eye and stiffen my arm” suggests that Heaney’s admiration has become stronger as he has become older and now he wishes to be exactly like his father. The use of the word ‘I’ at the beginning of stanza’s four, five and six emphasises the personal tone of the poem. Furthermore, Heaney emphasises the qualities acquired by his father and states that he hopes to follow in his example. The sixth stanza deals with the theme of old age. The tone of this stanza suddenly changes to annoyance and his childhood memories are replaced by unpleasant feelings shown towards his father. The language also changes, it is simple. The climax of the poem shows a complete role reversal between Heaney and his father. Heaney writes “I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, yapping always.” This suggests the childish behaviour of a young child. His father could always find time for his son. This aspect of the stanza introduces a tone of guilt as Heaney also writes “But today it is my father who keeps stumbling behind me and will not go away”. Heaney now sees his father as a burden, he cannot tolerate his father who was prepared to withstand his childish behaviour when he was young. I think that Heaney’s attitude towards his father has certainly altered, mainly due to the inconveniences of old age and the burdens they have caused. This poem has made me consider the changing attitudes shown towards my parents as I have grown up. I no longer depend on them for everything, I am more independent. In conclusion “Follower” by Seamus Heaney is a powerful and thought-provoking poem. It has made me think about what my life will be like when I am older. Already I can see changes in my grandparents. Task that used to only take a few hours now take longer. This poem has made me look back to my childhood. I was amazed by my parents and what they could do. It has also made me look towards the future. I hope I have more respect for my parents than Seamus Heaney had for his father. I also hope that I can do my best to care for them when they need me, just like they have done for me.
Excellent op!!! I thought to check out this collection of poems sometime. I've written some poetry myself, so Im very much into it. Take care....great read!!!! Chris xxx
SueMagee 09.11.2003 19:56
Would you mind if I made a suggestion? There was a lot of information in your opinion but it was quite hard to read. Opinions which are broken up into smaller paragraphs and have a blank line between them are easier on the eye! Sue.
coolcam7 09.11.2003 18:43
This is a great first op just one tip though- divide it into paragraphs with a space between them to make it easier to read. The content is fantastic though- much better than my first attempts. xxx