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An Advancement of Learning

Introduction: An Advancement of Learning describes its true purpose of the poem in the
title. The poem explores childhood innocence from purity to experience, explaining in depth
the different steps found in the encroachment of knowledge. The boy is learning through
incidence to culture his intelligence to overcome his fears.
Point 1 - Initial atmosphere and rat #1 the strong imagery creates a sense of disgust
I suggests personal experience of Heaney
References to an oil skinned river and dirty-keeled swans (filthy boats) conjure a
distasteful scene whilst Hunched suggests an uncomfortable feeling
3rd stanza introduces the rat
- Described using rich vocabulary
- Sibilance emphasises the disgust that Heaney the persona feels toward these rats
- Sibilance often linked to the devil and therefore may suggest that the persona feels a
hatred comparable to what one might feel toward the devil
- Synesthesia interweaves the vocab of sound & vision together. This reinforces the
dread that the rat is too repulsive to face up to.
- so quickly it is an instinctive reaction (his body is physically reacting cold sweat
shock horror
- Enjambment increases the pace
- Gag
Point 2 Impact of the second rat
When the poet encounters the second rat, the animals reaction challenges him and,
thereby, advances his learning.
By God reveals natural human shock horror except this time there is an extra rat
2nd rat is cutting off his escape
- The second line break at wet brings the arcs into focus
Military response
- Bridgehead area that surrounds the end of a bridge
- His response surprises himself Incredibly
Hitherto snubbed rodent
- Tells the reader that he faces the challenge head on
In spite of all this, the poet turns to stare with deliberate thrilled care, as though
compelled by fascination. There is a change in him, as he suddenly recognises the rat as a
sentient, responsive fellow-creature that listens and stares as if trying to comprehend him in
Persona has forgotten to panic perhaps distancing himself from his emotions.
- clockworked not human and cant be stopped?? OR this neologism allows the
persona to describe the poet in more objective terms no longer out of fear alone
The use of the word insidiously in insidiously listening demonstrates that, despite
overcoming his initial sense of panic, the poet still retains a deep distrust of the creature.
This description exposes a heart-stopping moment of rare communication between man
and beast and there is almost a trace of affection in the poets words: The raindrop eye and
the old snout. It is as though he is almost laughing at himself when, in the last verse, he
refers to This terror, cold, wet-furred, small-clawed. He stares, maybe thinking about his
own irrational fear. Suddenly, the rat is not just an unpleasant thing, but a feeling,
responding creature.
He forgets how he used to panic this links well to The Early Purges with a sudden change
Point 3 The structure and almost cyclical nature of the poem + looking back what is seen
The last line is a large triumph - the persona acknowledges that he is now completely in
control and [crosses] the bridge
- He has created a personal bridge after differing one at the start
- The rat as retreated back to the sewage sense that this is where the rat belongs
Poem is 4th in the collection and follows on very nicely from the previous where the
personas final fear moves in like great blind rats
Poem makes use of half rhymes allow Heaney to use the ideal word in each scenario
- Potentially shows some anxiety/uncertainty over what to do next
The poem has gone a full circle and the persona has moved on after conquering a childhood
fear sense of acheivement
Conclusion: Heaneys final words to his wife were Dont be afraid this poem shows how
Heaney overcame a fear in his life which was clearly significant to him.
Fits in with the rest of the collection etc