Overby UP 3 Final-1 - Kevin Overby Feeder 3.2 Professor...

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Kevin Overby Feeder 3.2 Professor Mulligan English 102 Seamus Heaney’s “Punishment” Despite Seamus Heaney’s eloquent description of the corpse of a drowned woman in a bog, ”Punishment” also actively illustrates Heaney’s emotional dichotomy in relation to political culture in Northern Ireland while simultaneously posing the writer himself as one who is experiencing punishment. Heaney’s upbringing in Ireland coupled with the common anti-Anglo sentiment establishes an interesting juxtaposition of an English educated poet who is devoted to Ireland. Upon the first reading, it may be difficult to extract the social commentary that Heaney offers regarding the British occupation in Northern Ireland. However, multiple references throughout the poem make it evident that the punishment received by the woman that we meet in the first stanza also serves as an allusion to a larger conflict regarding the punishment of Irish Catholic women who fell in love with British soldiers as well as Heaney’s position amongst these victims and his condoning of IRA violence. As Westlake states in “Seamus Heaney’s ‘Punishment’: An Interpretation,”, “A further feature of Heaney’s poetry is the transparent honesty of his political stance in relation to “the troubles” in Northern Ireland” (50). These troubles in Northern Ireland have played an integral role in much of Heaney’s work. However, since Heaney was English educated, he holds an interesting perspective regarding the English-Irish Troubles in his homeland of Northern Ireland, thus producing the so-called “honesty” to which Westlake refers. “Though an Irish poet, born and bred in Northern Ireland, he appears to be regarded as a representative English-language poet…On more than one occasion, he has expressed his anxiety about this dilemma” (Verdonk 114). This dilemma between Irish loyalty and ties to the English world is evident in Heaney’s
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“Punishment”, particularly within the author’s position regarding the punishment received by the young women. The first five stanzas act to describe the drowned corpse of a young woman in a bog. Heaney uses dark imagery throughout the description of the discovery of this young girl. “Her shaved head like a stubble of black corn, her blindfold a soiled bandage” (17-19) offers the reader with a clear description of the harsh treatment that the young woman received. However,
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Overby UP 3 Final-1 - Kevin Overby Feeder 3.2 Professor...

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