Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney Deck (17)
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1
Q

Title:

A

Naturalist is child’s curiosity of nature, death (metaphor) is loss of innocent enthusiasm in response to half-understood realities, death also indicates process is impossible to reverse and changes perspective on life forever

2
Q

flax dam festered

A

—> (fricative dissonance of F ) alliteration emphasises the decay of the flax, language of decay foreshadows speaker’s disgust at nature
-“festered’ and ‘rotted’ highlight the theme of death and decay, foreshadowing the metaphorical death of a naturalist

3
Q

Sweltered in the punishing sun.

Bubbles gargled delicately,

A

—> pathetic fallacy of the sun shows just how forceful and oppressive nature can be
—> oxymoron of gargled delicately shows how counter-intuitive nature can be (beautiful and ugly), mood created unsettling and foreshadows the shock child will later experience, not using technical term reflects ignorance of rationality in children
—> use of the senses and onomatopoeia shows the speaker childishly enjoying something disgusting and creates a vivid image for the reader

4
Q

bluebottles

Wove strong gauze of sound around the smell…

A

—> combination of senses shows it is a rich memory for the speaker as he used to love nature and the use of sibilance mimics the sound of the flies and helps the reader to picture the scene
—> synesthesia: perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one’s sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences

5
Q

But best of all was the warm thick slobber”

A

—> warm and thick have positive connotations of comfort and contrast to slobber like how nature has two sides to it,
—> best of all” also is quite excitable and captures sense of childhood awe, “gauze” also hints at shield against harsh aspects of nature
—> speaker’s introduction of child-like language shows him slipping back into his younger self as he gets excited remembering the memories he associates with nature

6
Q

jampotfuls of the jellied specks

A

—> alliteration makes the words stick together like the frogspawn and emphasises the stickiness of it and shows the speaker’s amazement at this part of nature

7
Q

“ Fattening dots burst into nimble-

swimming tadpoles

A

—> enjambment across the two lines emphasises the excitement the speaker feels when talking about nature as he wants to tell everyone all about it ( impulsiveness and curiosity of a child mirrored)

8
Q

“ Miss Walls
The daddy frog
how the mammy frog”

A

—> rhythmic flow mimics speech of Walls, sidestepped sexual part of process, takes us deeper into flashback, childlike dialect and inquisitive nature at this point in poem reflects how he is still innocent at this point in poem, syndetic list increases pace too, “Walls” may refer to veils of ignorance that children are taught under, also reflects childish faith in adults

9
Q

“Then one hot day when fields were rank

A

—> rank” creates unpleasant atmosphere and contrasts to view when he was child,

10
Q

“angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam”

A

—> extended metaphor that frogs are weapons as they are now seen as negative and potentially harmful to the speaker and sees them as a threat who want revenge for him taking their frogspawn in the past
—> speaker’s use of war imagery and weapons shows how he now finds nature and the frogs frightening

11
Q

“coarse croaking”

A

—> aggression reinforced, tadpoles -> frogs metaphor for loss of innocence (due to aggression), onomatopoeia also alliterative - mood has changed,

12
Q

“gross-bellied frogs were cocked”

A

—> military language makes the frogs seem like threatening guns which are now ready to attack the speaker as he now sees nature as intimidating

13
Q

poised like mud grenade, their blunt heads farting.

A

—> simile suggests that the frogs are going to explode and attack the speaker imminently which shows how terrifying the speaker thinks they are
—> the speaker no longer has a passion for the beauty of the frogs and instead now sees them as ugly and disgusting

14
Q

“I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings”

A

—> the shortest and quickest line of the whole poem emphasises the incredibly fast reaction of the speaker as he feels sheer terror towards these frogs as the speaker is admitting his loss of passion for nature as he wants to run away from it
—> personification shows how the speaker feels the creatures look down on him and feels intimidated by them and nature

15
Q

“that if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it”

A

—> poem ends with a nightmarish image of the speaker being attacked by the frogs which reinforces just how terrifying he now finds nature as he no longer feels comfortable around nature of fascinated by it

16
Q

Form and structure:

A
  • no rhyme as poem is simply a true story (also that childhood is not constrained),
  • auditory imagery dominates poem (but differently in stanzas),
  • harsh consonants and caesura in second stanza (more fragmented),
  • volta when child loses innocence in second stanza,
  • enjambment and internal rhyme give poem unity/cohesion
Blank verse (no rhyme and lack of a set meter) 
The speaker starts off the poem as a child, innocent and enthralled by the natural world. In the second stanza, though, something radical changes: the speaker suddenly finds nature disgusting and threatening. That change is sudden, unexpected, and irreversible—the speaker can’t go back.
17
Q

Good old context:

A

Death of a Naturalist (1966)

  • Autobiographical: Heaney adopts the voice of his boyhood self: a pure, untainted vessel, unaware of the monstrosities that are soon to corrupt his mind and alter his perception of nature. He describes details of his childhood in rural Northern Ireland on his father’s farm.
  • Retting: Flax is a type of plant that can be found growing in Northern Ireland and can be used for spinning into yarn once soaked. A ‘flax-dam’ is where the flax was kept to rot and soften. This process is called retting, but Heaney choses not to use this technical term for this process because he is highlighting the child’s fascination with the process of decomposition, and not its use – it is the visceral process that mesmerises him rather than the science behind it.
  • Childhood trauma: Heaney’s younger brother Christopher died in a road traffic accident when Heaney was 13 years old. It could be argued this traumatic incident developed his awareness of the harsh reality of nature, and was a catalyst for his change in attitude towards the natural world.