The Poem ‘Follower’ by Seamus Heaney is a literary work referring to childhood memories of a boy. Following this point Heaney recalls the work that his father used to do on the farm during the childhood days when Heaney was a little boy (Thomas et al. 7). Heaney also recalls his father with the horse-drawn plough. He used to follow the father around and as such he used to get in his way. There is yet another thing that Heaney reveals by saying that he wanted in his childhood days to follow the foot-steps of the father. It becomes evident the poem that Heaney did not make it to follow the father and as such, the father has become the follower at the end of it. This is given to the reason that the memories of the father keep on following him as he grows up. This poem can be viewed as a way through which the elderly stumble in their old age when their bodies age and weaken and as a result, they become as the ones that have to depend on their children for protection.
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Outstandingly, as children grow up, they seek to follow the footsteps of their parents and as a result, they end up inheriting many values and characteristics from their parents. So to speak, Heaney seems to have been so close and admiring to the father. In fact he says “ His shoulders globed like a full sail string’. This is an indication of how detailed the boy’s admiration was to the father. Heaney further reveals the moments that he stumbled behind the father as he ploughed and he says “I was a nuisance, tripping, falling”.
Again in this context, Tobin (1999) reveals how Heaney dramatizes the transformation that took place from childhood to manhood (63). In line with this point, Heaney confesses that his desire was to grow up and do the same farming that the father did. In fact he says “ I wanted to grow up and plough” He further states that all he ever did was to follow. He adds the context in which he followed the father when he says “in his broad shadow round the farm” (Burns 63). This shows how earnestly children follow to replicate the deeds and values of their parents. The issue of the broad shadow as the boy followed the father as he ploughed marks an aspect of time. Apparently, the boy followed the father for a long time since a shadow comes in as a result of the passage of time.
From another different point of view, it is important to state that Heaney’s poem depicts the image of his own father. In this context, the poem takes in the rhyme of each stanza as a b a b if it may be said. The poem has been related to a setting of the boy in his childhood reflecting on the relationship that he had with the father (Collins 39). Furthermore, the boy describes the different things that the father did on the farm of which it is evident that he describes them with admiration. The father’s work in the farm has been described as one that was done with precision and accuracy. This is ascertained by the word that begins the second stanza of the poem; “An Expert” which is then followed by a full stop to show that the father’s work was done carefully and accurately (Collins 39). So to speak, it was actually a perfect work. In addition he describes how the father’s eye narrowed and angled at the ground along with an aspect of mapping the furrow exactly.
Following the fourth stanza, the poet confesses that the father also played with him. In fact he says “sometimes he rode me on his back” (Collins 39). He then follows to say that he was dipping and rising to his plod. Again in this context, in stanza five the boy presents his will of being as his father in the future and following this point, he says that he will never be the same. In this case he says that he was a nuisance and useless boy who tripled and fell as well and always yapping.
Notably, the last three verses reflect on the present happenings whereby the boy says that in the present time the roles have reversed. Moreover, he says that the father is presently stumbling owing to the dictates of time. As a matter of fact he says “It is my father who keeps stumbling behind me, and will not go away” (Collins 39). From this perspective, it seems that the father is the one who is currently relying on the boy and seeking for the boy’s protection since he can no longer support himself due to the weaknesses that come along with age.
Seemingly, there are some of the themes that are coming out clearly in the poem and as such they comprise of childhood memories (Thomas et al. 7). In actual sense, there are many things that children see as they grow up and as such they follow them to their adulthood. Owing to this point, they have a tendency to copy and as well admire the doings of the adults who bring them up. As a matter of fact, parents become the greatest role models of their children. In this milieu, it seems that the boy took his father as the role model and as such, this brought about the great admiration he had for him (Summerfield, Haughton and Phillips 130).Thus, he wanted to plough as the father did and so to speak, he admired his father’s skills of which he explains in detail how his father’s expertise was.
Another theme that Heaney has explored is the theme of physical labor of which he admired the physical work that the father did. The father did it with a lot of precision and as such, the boy explained how the father would make his eye to be narrowed at an angle mapping the furrow with great precision (Summerfield, Haughton and Phillips 130). Ploughing in actual sense involves physical labor which comprises of one going round the farm with the horse and as such, it involved a lot of sweating. In this context the Poet says of the team turning round and back to the land that “Of reins, the sweating team turned round and back into the land”. This implies that a lot of physical exercise was involved which led to a lot of sweating (Burns 63).
Furthermore, there is another theme that has been explored in detail which is the theme of family relationships and the very effects and impacts that the parents have on the lives of their children (Parker 63).In connection to this point, this is supported by the poem when the poet says that he wanted to plough when he grew up just as the father did. The reason that made him to get stirred to plough emanates from the fact that the boy closely followed his father as he ploughed and from the admiration he had for the father’s work which he related to the work of an expert, he desired to do the same work when he grew up. At the same time, there is also the theme of the difference between how children view the world and how adults view it. In this context, the boy thought that what he did was nuisance of which the father might have had a different thought in regard to it (Collins 39). The father used to ride the boy on his back an aspect that shows that he enjoyed being with him while on the other side the boy used to think that he was a nuisance.
Needless to say, passage of old age and time has been reflected on as a theme. Following this point, changes are inevitable as time goes on. This is given to the reason that as time went on, the boy became the one that the father had now to stumble behind him as he ploughed. This reveals that there is an aspect of reversed roles as it regards the relationship that exists between parents and their children. Children depend on their parents at their young age and as they grow up, it is the parents that change and start depending on them due to the factors of age.
From a general point of view, the poem ‘Follower’ has a title that fits it since the boy in the poem used to follow his father as he ploughed. A follower is one whose work is to follow another in deed and word. As a matter of fact, the boy seems to be a real follower of the father to an extent that he desires to do the same work the father did (Parker 63). In the first stanza, the boy is seen to be very keen when he says that the horse strained at the clicking of the father’s tongue. This shows how the boy was careful in following. In the same line of thought, the boy observed how the father ploughed with care and great expertise. Again in this context, the father’s actions while he ploughed are expressed in a way that the reader can put the actions into imaginations and then share the boy’s experience. This is to suggest that the descriptions in the poem are quiet detailed. Words like ‘single pluck’, ‘Of reins’ and ‘controlled in the horses’ among others are used to show how the father worked reflecting that the job was hard. In essence, the poem relates to the family relationships that exist between children and their parents and the eventual impact that parents have on their children.
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