The poem meditates on the relationship between human beings and nature and uses that relationship to explore the transition from childhood to adolescence. Seamus Heaney’s (1939-2013) “Death of a Naturalist” basically deals with the theme of loss of childhood and the step forward to adolescence or adulthood.
There are two sections to this poem. The first section gives a vivid picture of the natural world. The child here visions of a pond of rotten vegetables. The little boy becomes so much delighted after seeing the frogspawn. He collects jelly for nature. Nature is presented in its unpleasant state in this poem but the boy is happy.
More Notes: Seamus Heaney
His teacher Miss Walls gives him the lesson about frogs’ reproduction system. The child observes the daddy frog and mummy frog help his child feel secure in this world to survive. He says,
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.
But in the second section of the poem, the imagery builds in the boy’s mind exposes his adulthood. Now for stealing the frogspawn, the frogs have come to take revenge on him. Here the attack of the frogs is seen through some the phrases like angry frogs, invaded and poised like mud grenades”. He relates,
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades,
The boy now feels the frogs as his enemy. The sounds like “Coarse croaking”, and “slap and plop” seems to him as a threat. That is why the boy feels very frightened. He runs away from the place seeing the frogs. His running away indicates his loss of childhood and his step forward to adulthood.
More Notes: Suggestions