Seamus Heaney Poems Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Seamus Heaney Poems Symbols, Allegory and Motifs


On a literal level, bells symbolize transition and change, as they represent the passage of time during the school day. Transition and change are key themes in the poem, as the poem explores how an individual's mindset and worldview can be substantially altered by significant, tragic events. As well as this, the bells represent mourning and lamenting, as they echo the idea of funeral bells. This reiterates the central theme of death and disaster.


The box symbolizes entrapment and confinement. The small dimensions of the box create a deliberately claustrophobic atmosphere, indicative of the persona's grief and confusion. This symbol is overwhelmingly negative. The box also raises ideas of death and burial, as it represents a tomb.


In the poem, the candle has dual symbolism. In some ways, it is a positive and optimistic symbol. The candle represents the condolences of those close to the family. It also symbolizes the light of life and the human soul. In this way, it stands as a promise of the afterlife, suggesting that the deceased infant will continue to live on through the thoughts and prayers of those around him. However, the candle is also an ominous symbol, as it suggests a funerary rite and emphasizes the tragic death.

Allegory for grief and mourning

The poem explores varied human responses to grief and mourning. In particular, it looks at how a young child understands and experiences the death of a loved one. The tone of the poem is predominantly dispassionate and objective, however, there are significant moments of heart-wrenching sorrow. In this way, the poem encapsulates a sense of denial, disbelief and intense sadness, key aspects of the grieving process.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.