What type of diction is used in the poem "Punishment" by Seamus Heaney?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The diction used in this powerful poem which links the bog people discovered in Ireland to modern day political tragedies is carefully selected to reinforce the horror of what the young girl found in the bog must have suffered in her last remaining moments of life. Consider, for example, how the opening stanza begins with a very graphic description of empathy between the speaker and the girl whilst she was alive:

I can feel the tug

of the halter at the nape

of her neck, the wind

on her naked front.

Words such as "neck" and "naked" reinforce the horror of what the girl must have suffered as she was pulled by a rope that was tied around her neck and was also forced to walk naked. Later on in the poem, further diction that underlines the tragedy of this event refers to the "weighing stone" that was used to make her sink into the bog and the harsh reference to her "drowned / body" which enjambement used to highlight the word "drowned" and make it stand out. The diction is used to engage the reader's sympathies for this young girl who was killed so long ago, which then is used to question the speaker's own inability to speak out against similar acts of outrage in the present, as he watches similar girls punished because of the political conflict in his native Ireland. 

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