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CCEA Curriculum Monitoring Programme 2018-19
This is our legacy website and will no longer be kept uptodate from Monday 20th January 2020.

Background and theme

Background details

This poem has close biographical links with Heaney’s childhood in Ulster in the 1940s and 1950s. Blackberry-Picking belongs to a collection of work depicting country activities. The speaker refers to Bluebeard, a fictional character who murdered his wives. Therefore the poem suggests that the red juice from the blackberries makes their hands as sticky as Bluebeard’s hands, which were covered not with juice, but with blood.

What the poem is about

Seamus Heaney uses an event or activity to represent something broader. The memory of the picking of the blackberries, and the disappointment associated with it, becomes a more general reflection about hope and disappointment at the end of the poem.

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