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What is the theme of the poem "Punishment" by Seamus Heaney?

One of the themes of “Punishment” by Seamus Heaney is the universality of violence against women. Though separated by over thousand years, the bog people of the Iron Age share a similar attitude with IRA terrorists in the twentieth century about women who transgress society’s norms.

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In “Punishment," Seamus Heaney shows us the universality of violence, especially violence towards women, throughout human history. As presented in the poem, violence against women is used as a way of keeping them in line, to discourage them from transgressing the values and mores of the community.

None of the values are written down; seldom are they articulated. They collectively form the cultural backdrop against which officially sanctioned acts of violence against women take place. What is remarkable about this cultural phenomenon, as well as highly disturbing, is its persistence into what it proposed to be a more modern age, where women have the kind of rights that would’ve been unthinkable only a generation earlier.

But the point here is that while women may have changed, along with the status they enjoy in society, male violence against women remains ever-present. The IRA, though ostensibly committed to the liberation of Irish men and women, are in actual fact involved in acts of...

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