Seamus Heaney Questions and Answers

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In Seamus Heaney's "Casualty," please explain the imagery employed, in particular the water imagery.

In Seamus Heaney’s poem “Casualty,” imagery describes the fisherman and his love for both drinking and fishing. Through body imagery and synecdoche, Heaney creates a picture of a familiar, tenacious “regular” pub customer. The poet then shifts mainly to water imagery to link the fisherman’s affinities for drinking and fishing as well as his continued journey on the water after death.

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In “Casualty,” Seamus Heaney uses body imagery to establish the character of the fisherman; the poet presents water imagery to illustrate the man’s ties to fishing and drinking. The repeated water imagery links his love of drinking, his journey after death, and his connection to his most comfortable place—a fishing boat.

In the first stanza, Heaney offers glimpses of the fisherman that speak volumes about the character. Through synecdoche, he reveals the fisherman’s familiarity to the bartender and his understated personality. At a pub which he frequents, for example, he silently orders more drinks through subtle gestures and mimed actions. While imbibing alone, he would

raise a weathered thumb

Towards the high shelf,

Calling another rum

And blackcurrant, without

Having to raise his voice,

Or order a quick stout

By a lifting of the eyes

And a discreet dumb-show

Of pulling off the top;

Heaney captures the fisherman’s nature and mannerisms through physical imagery. The man exits the bar...

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