How does the poem "Digging" explore ideas of heritage/family tradition?  

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There is one main thread which exists in Seamus Heaney's poem "Digging" which details the idea of heritage and family tradition. The poem opens with the narrator, assumed to be Heaney himself, holding a "digging" tool in his hand. The following stanzas speak about both his father and his grandfather (who both farmed).

My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.

Readers can see that both Heaney's father and grandfather were farmers.

At the end of the poem, Heaney speaks to the fact that he, too, will take up the trade of his previous generations.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

While Heaney does not truly follow in his father's and grandfather's farming footsteps (speaking to heritage and family tradition), he still takes up the trade in a figurative way. His tool is a pen, and it is with this pen that Heaney will dig.


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