Heaney’s Poem, “Digging” Analysis

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Formalism/New Criticism: Unlike other approaches, formalist criticism approach works on using the text itself to state the author’s intentions without any connection of author’s life. It regards literature as a unique form of reader’s individual views rather than author’s interpretations of the text. In the meantime, formalist criticism approaches focus on using elements of forms in the text, such as tone, imagery, symbols, metaphor and simile, sound effect, structure, rhythm, and etc., to dig deeper understanding of the text. Analyze the story, play, or poem in relation to one of these critical approaches: Heaney’s poem, “Digging,” is definitely one of my favorite poems I have read through out the whole literature class in the summer. Using the formalism criticism approach to analysis the poem, I paid more attention on the symbols, metaphor, and simile in the text, which eventually helped me develop better understanding of the poem. From my understanding, the word “digging” in the poem is symbolic. At first, I thought “digging” just meant the action of sinking spade into the ground. But my thoughts changed after I dig deeper into the text. I then found out that “digging” in the poem symbolizing for the spirit of hardworking. Although Heaney didn’t follow his family’s path as an expert at digging in farms, he still worked hard using his pen as the tool. Speaking of the simile, Heaney used simile to compare the pen to the gun, which would make readers think that the pen is Heaney’s mighty but very peaceful weapon. Heaney also used the spade as a metaphor, trying to inform readers that his grandfather is good at gigging as well. How does it shift your understanding of the story to look at the story from this particular lens? By looking at the story from the formalism criticism approach, I eventually understand the writer’s intentions of the poem.
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