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Young Irish Women And Sex In Seamus Heaney's Poem, Punishment, And In The Documentary, Sex In A Cold Climate

2697 words - 11 pages

During the 20th century in Ireland, girls had to suppress their inner-sexual thoughts and desires becasue Irish girls' personal lives were dictated and controlled by the Catholic church and state. Ireland socially accepted female inferiority as they humiliated and tortured young girls for loving another partner. As seen in Seamus Heaney's poem, Punishment, and the documentary, Sex in a Cold Climate, Irish girls' views of love and sex were forever tainted because of the public treatment and ridicule they received. In Punishment, Heaney describes a personal experience witnessing a young girl tarred-and-feathered in public for loving a British solider. Moreover, Sex in a Cold Climate focuses on four women and their tragic experiences in Ireland's Magdalene Asylums. Furthermore drawing themes from Punishment and Sex in a Cold Climate, I am going to discuss the relationship between sexual desires and punishment and argue that Irish girls were deprived of having a normal love and sex life.
In Seamus Heaney's Punishment (1975), recalls a specific yet terrible moment in his life.
The Irish rebellion against Britain remained significant to nationalism to Ireland and Irish people; moreover, to those who betray Ireland were severely chastised. According to Enda Duffy, Heaney observed a young women, naked and bald, ready to be hanged in front of the church where she was being tarred and penalized for being enamored with a British solider (Duffy 4/6/10). Heaney calls this woman a “little adultress” and “[his] scapegoat” to show the woman's betrayal to her country (Heaney ln 23, 28). This situation is biased because of the soldier's nationality: if the solider was Irish, the couple would be socially acceptable but because the solider was British, the girl is being sentenced to death. The war and rivalry between Ireland and Britain is strong enough to interfere with interpersonal relationships of the innocent. Additionally, the woman mentioned in the poem is being berated for being in loved, the most incorruptible and pleasurable feelings one could experience. Because fraternizing with the British is seen as a crime, women do not have any control of their own lives. By witnessing the young girl's moments before death, Heaney illustrates how the Irish rebellion affected many people.
Although the focus of Punishment is on Heaney's past experience, it is also associates with Peter Glob's finding of a dead woman within a Danish bog. Women were pressured to abide by “society's sexual norms” dictated by the Church and State which believes that woman must be pure and virginal (Crowley and Kitchi 364). But in in the third and fourth stanza, Heaney states:
“I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin,”
an image that countbalances society's norms (Heaney ln 9-16). According to Enda Duffy, bogs or turfs...

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