In this essay, I will write about the how does Seamus Heaney portray the loss of innocence in the poem ‘Death of a Naturalist’ and ‘Mid-term break’. Everyone will become different from their childhood to grown-ups. In ‘Death of a Naturalist’, the theme is about nature and in ‘Mid-term break’, the theme is death. Heaney uses those themes and English techniques to show the loss of innocence from a child to a teenager.
Firstly, Heaney shows a sense of innocence in both of the poems. In ‘Death of a Naturalist’, Heaney wrote ‘There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies, but best of all was the warm thick slobber’. There are juxtapose of adjectives, ‘dragon-flies, spotted butterflies’. ‘Warm’ and ‘thick’ with ‘slobber of frogspawn’ made a sense of safety and comfort, however, ‘thick slobber’ is an unpleasant image, which a child may be interested in. This shows that the boy is young which makes things seem naive and cute. This is how the little boy looks the nature, the boy knows nothing about the world and is curious about everything.
Another example in ‘Death of a naturalist’ is ‘Miss Walls would tell us how the daddy frog was called a bullfrog, And how he croaked and how the mammy frog laid hundreds of little eggs and this was frogspawn.’ Miss Walls is just his teacher and is how the boy learns about nature. This is a very childish language. This refers the sense of innocence. This is what adults told them about the wildlife and how they are living. And this is also about reproduction.
In ‘Mid-term break’, the ‘I sat all morning in the college sick bay, Counting bells knelling classes to a close.’ This suggests that Heaney doesn’t know what do to so he just sat in the college sick bay. He is not mature enough to do anything. He doesn’t know what death is like and his parents are all at the funeral.
Secondly, Heaney challenges to innocence and how innocence is lost through different things. In ‘Mid-term Break’, ‘By old men standing up to shake my hand, And tell me they were “sorry for my trouble,”‘ This is a technique of enjambment. This shows a change in the poem. The story continues and Heaney has treated like a young adult like his father and mother. He felt embarrassed by that.
In the poem ‘Death of a Naturalist’, Heaney used metaphor to show the challenges to innocence. We can see this in ‘Then one hot day when fields were rank, With cow dung in the grass the angry frogs, Invaded the flax-dam’. This shows that the boy is undergoing puberty and he became aggressive. Now the flax-dam is full of ugliness and menace. Heaney has changed not the location, just as before. However, everything has changed to a darker side of the world. The boy sees the world in a different view now. Also the quote ‘I had not heard before’, this suggests that he has changed and grown up. He recognized that he grows older, and he is scared of the future. He is more concerned with the unknown than childlike curiosity.
Furthermore, Heaney also showed the loss of innocence in both poems. In ‘Death of a Naturalist’ it has the quote ‘The great slime kings, Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew, That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.’ It contains the use of imagery. Heaney referred the great slime kings as the frog which the boy saw it before. Also suggesting that an avenging army ‘gathered there’ to emphasize the speaker’s sense of danger. And if the boy ‘dipped’ his hand in, the slime kings will attack it and revenge. The boy’s point of view of the frog changed from cute to dangerous. This suggests the loss of innocence.
In ‘Mid-term break ‘ it showed the loss of innocence by ‘Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside; I saw him for the first time in six weeks. Paler now.’ The techniques in this sentence are assonant which are the long vowels in “room” and “soothed,” and alliterative, the s sound in ‘snowdrops’, ‘soothed’ and ‘saw’. ‘I saw him for the first time in six weeks.’ this suggests that he was trying to accept his brother’s death. And after he saw his brother, he was able to face death of a family member which represents the loss of innocence in the poem.