Seamus Heaney

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Which of Seamus Heaney's poems other than "Punishment" and "Limbo" demonstrate the extent to which men will go to diminish women's role in society?

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"The Underground," "Bog Queen," and "A Drink of Water" demonstrate women's lower or diminished position vis-à-vis men in Heaney's society. These poems are subtler than "Punishment" and "Limbo," but they all reduce women to objects of the male gaze. They are arguably more dangerous than poems like "Punishment," which openly condemn the mistreatment of women. These poems normalize male dominance and the male gaze, never questioning that the implied male narrator should be the actor and the woman the object.

In "The Underground," Heaney's narrator recasts the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in modern guise: instead of pursuing Eurydice into Hades, the narrator pursues his beloved through the London underground subway system. Nevertheless, the poem never questions the male of point of view, including the assumed right of the male to control the female by catching her, his right to use her as a muse, or the idea underlying the myth of a woman's dependence on male action for salvation.

"Bog Queen" is an extended description of a woman who died in a bog in ancient times. The focus is the male gaze on the female body as an object. In "A Drink of Water," the narrator gazes at an older woman, whose lowly, diminished status is emphasized by the fact that she must get her water from an outdoor pump.

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