Digging Questions and Answers
by Seamus Heaney

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What is the tone of the poem "Digging," by Seamus Heaney?

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Heaney's tone in this poem, which is a reflection upon the "clean" work of his potato-farming father and grandfather, is one of nostalgic admiration, with elements of regret and determination, as the poet resolves to honor his ancestors with his own tool, the "pen." The language Heaney uses to describe his father's work outside—"clean," "firmly," "bright edge," "loving"—indicate not only that the poet reveres and respects this form of work, but also that he remembers it in vivid detail. As a child, the products of his father's labor were the potatoes which he cradled in his own hands; there is awe in the poet's statement that "By God, the old man could handle a spade."

This was a skill handed down from the poet's grandfather to his father, which the poet sees great value in and which is in his blood, as it were. The poet uses technical terms which show an understanding of this familial occupation: "nicking and slicing," "going down for the good turf," "curt cuts." He remembers the...

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