Storm on the Island - Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

  • Created by: v.a..
  • Created on: 28-04-19 22:46

Summary

  • The speaker describes a storm attacking the island he lives on. - The community thought they were prepared. But as the poem goes on, it becomes clear that the storm was powerful and frightening.
  • Their feelings of security turn to fear.
1 of 27

Context

  • The first eight letters of the title also spell the word 'STORMONT'.
  • Stormont is a suburb of Belfast. It was the site of Parliament House from 1928–30.
  • The poem has also been interpreted as a metaphor for the conflict in Northern Ireland.
2 of 27

Key Ideas

  • The poet explores ideas about the inhospitality and the cruelty of nature.
  • Man is presented as insignificant compared to the natural world. The poem emphasises these feelings of helplessness.
  • The poem encourages readers to question the source of human fear: is it the unknown that frightens us the most?
  • The poem acts as a reminder of human vulnerability.
3 of 27

Form and Structure in Storm on the Island

The structure and rhythm of the Storm on the Island changes throughout to reflect the unpredictable nature of the storm.

4 of 27

Rhythm and rhyme

  • The rhythm and rhyme scheme are unpredictable, reflecting the unpredictable nature of the storm.
5 of 27

Direct address

  • The poet directly addresses the reader in the poem.
  • This involves the reader more and makes the storm seem more threatening, as though it is happening to you too.
6 of 27

Structural change

  • The poet moves from creating images of safety, to danger and destruction.
  • Finally, the poet contemplates how strange it is that something that cannot be seen or touched is the source of such great fear.
7 of 27

Safety vs Danger: Imagery

At the start of the poem, the Islanders feel safe and secure. This is ironic, given the way the storm attacks them. Heaney uses contrasting images of safety (at the beginning) and danger (towards the end) to emphasise this irony, and how powerless man is compared to nature.

8 of 27

Images of Danger

  • Blows full blast”.
  • It pummels your house too”.
  • Exploding”.
  • Spits like a tame cat / Turned savage”.
  • We are bombarded”.
9 of 27

Images of Safety

  • Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate”.
  • Wizened earth”.
  • Never troubled us”.
10 of 27

Violence of Nature

The poet explores ideas about the inhospitality and cruelty of nature. Man is presented as being insignificant compared to the natural world through these devices.

11 of 27

Simile

  • The use of the simile – “spits like a tame cat / Turned savage” gives the impression that the storm is wild and uncontrollable.
  • It also reminds readers that something that seems innocent can be deadly.
  • The use of enjambment (sentences flowing over the end of lines) here further highlights how the storm cannot be contained or controlled.
12 of 27

Military metaphors

  • "We just sit tight while wind dives / And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo. / We are bombarded by the empty air."
  • "Salvo", "strafe", and "bombarded" are associated with air attacks.
  • The military imagery emphasises how violent and aggressive the storm is.
13 of 27

Irony

Heaney uses irony to show how weak man is compared to nature. Heaney uses these devices to emphasise the contrast between man and nature.

14 of 27

Juxtaposition

  • The juxtaposition (putting ideas or words together for comparison of contrast) of “huge" and "nothing" in "huge nothing that we fear” in the final line highlights how strange the situation is.
  • Despite huge physical preparations, ultimately it is only air (something that cannot even be seen or touched) that is frightening.
15 of 27

Contrast

  • The contrast between “huge nothing” and “rock” at the start of the poem makes the storm seem even more menacing because human preparation is not sufficient protection.
16 of 27

Irony: Safety

One of the main ironies of the poem is that the Islanders think they are safe at the start. This is ironic because the storm completely overpowers them. The first line of the poem is full of irony.

17 of 27

Strong statement

  • The poem opens with a strong statement – “We are prepared”. - This emphasises the confidence and sense of security of the Islanders.
18 of 27

Caesura

  • The use of caesura (break in the line) in the opening line reinforces the idea that the islanders feel safe.
  • It conveys the speaker’s certainty, as well as the sense that they are safely barricaded in their homes.
19 of 27

Analysis of the Opening Line

20 of 27

Key Quotes - “We are prepared: we build..."

  • We are prepared: we build our houses squat
  • Emphatic opening line and caesura.
    • The poem opens with a strong statement. This emphasises the confidence and sense of security of the Islanders.
  • The use of caesura (break in the line) reinforces this because it conveys the speaker’s certainty as well as the sense that they are safely barricaded in their homes.
21 of 27

Key Quotes - “You can listen to..."

  • You can listen to the thing you fear / Forgetting that it pummels your house too.”
  • Danger imagery.
22 of 27

Key Quotes - "Spits like a tame cat..."

  • Spits like a tame cat / Turned savage
  • Simile.
  • This gives the impression that the storm is wild and uncontrollable.
  • It also reminds readers that something that seems innocent can be deadly.
23 of 27

Key Quotes - “We are bombarded by the empty air”

  • Military metaphor.
  • "Bombarded" relates to air strikes.
24 of 27

Key Quotes -“Strange, it is a huge nothing..."

  • Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear
  • Juxtaposition and irony.
  • The juxtaposition of “huge nothing that we fear” in the final line highlights how strange the situation is. Despite huge physical preparations, ultimately it is only air, something that cannot even be seen or touched, that is frightening.
  • The contrast between “huge nothing” and “solid rock” at the start of the poem makes the storm seem even more menacing because human preparation is not sufficient protection.
25 of 27

Unpleasant and/or powerful experiences

  • You may want to compare the theme of unpleasant and/or powerful experiences in Storm on the Island to the following texts:
    • The Prelude.
    • Exposure.
    • London.
    • Remains.
    • Bayonet Charge.
26 of 27

Power of nature vs power of humans

  • You may want to compare the theme of the power of nature vs power of humans in Storm on the Island to the following texts:
    • The Prelude.
    • Exposure.
    • Tissue.
27 of 27

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all AQA Anthology resources »