How successful is Seamus Heaney in portraying the journey from child to adult in Death of a Naturalist? Death of a Naturalist, is a collection of poems written by the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney in 1966. In this collection, Seamus recalls his memories as a little boy. Many poems are about his childhood experiences and him growing up. The title given to the collection, which is also the name of one of the poems, can refer to the loss of innocent enthusiasm a child has while studying, collecting, and observing nature and doing mostly universal activities when one is younger.
Growing up can be defined as the evolution from the baby, to the child, to the adult, and finally death. We will see how well Heaney was able to describe the transition from innocence and childhood to reality and adulthood. One of the basic changes in the journey from child to adult that is well shown is language. In many poems Heaney uses a childish language to explain what a kid might think and feel. One can read this language in “Death of a Naturalist” when he names the bullfrogs “daddy frog” and “mammy frog” and when he talks about the frogspawn as “little eggs”.
In the poem “Early Purges” there is an evolution of the language. In the beginning, he talks childishly about the drowning of the kittens, but near the end, the poet talks about the dogs as “ Bloody pups”. This shows how harsher the adults are about reality than kids. Children use simple language whereas the language of the adults can be more complicated and sometimes inappropriate. In some poems such as “An advancement of Learning” the poet uses jumps in time to show the evolution of the of the child. In this particular poem, the poet expresses the fear of rats he used to have as a child : My throat sickened so quickly that I turned down the path in cold sweat” In the ninth stanza, one can finally see Heaney’s mental evolution. The writer portrayed this scene of maturation because the reader can most of the time relate to this. Most readers have been confronted by their fears when they were youngm, but there is often a change as they mature. This could be considered as step forwards towards adulthood. One of the stages of the journey which is often thought of is the growth of the child and his or her muscular power increase.
In this collection of poems, not many of them site this change. Heaney briefly talks about the modification of the human body in “Follower”. He says how he used to be a “nuisance, tripping, falling, yapping always”. When he was a child, instead of helping his father plowing, he actually prevented him working in the right conditions. In the same stanza, stanza nine, there is a jump in time which is not directly mentioned. We can still figure out that the poet has grown physically because his father is now the one behind and having a hard time to keep up.
This important life change is not mentioned very well in this collection. In the collection all the poems create the journey from childhood to adulthood. Some poems are about universal childish activities. Heaney tell us about when he used to pick berries or when he used to learn about frogs in school. Heaney describes the smells, sights, sounds and the places so the reader can imagine himself or recall to past events he or she has lived. Secondly there are poems about adolescence.
Heaney portrays perfectly this stage of evolution when young adults start feeling for others. Love is mentioned in “Twice Shy” when two adolescent lovers go out for a walk on a spring evening. The description of the surroundings helps Heaney portray the happy yet shy feeling of a young and trouble-free love relationship. Then Heaney also talks about adulthood in his poems. For xample in “Digging”, he dedicates this poem to his father and grandfather. He respects them for how much and how good they work as farmers. He mentions how focused and hard working his family is.
Finally, the last step of the journey is death which is also mentioned many times, whether it is the death of animals or humans. This is when one can fully understand how reality is harsher when one is an adult. A child usually doesn’t completely understand death. The poem” Mid-Term Break” can be considered as a harsh poem. It is about Heaney’s brother’s death. The final line stands out on its own: “A four foot box, a foot for every year. ” Almost every word is emphasized so that the reader must take in the line’s message and the shock and deep grief that the family ust have felt. There is an element of surprise when the reader discovers that the child was only four. This is the last stage of the journey and is once more well portrayed. In the poems of Heaney’s collection, different themes of growing up are discussed. Heaney is efficient in describing the journey from the child to the adult even though he might have passed over a few important stages. Mainly Heaney went across the beginning to the end of the human life. One can wonder if Heaney’s journey was easy since he was able to describe most of the stages through poems.