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Filiation

1. What is it?

Filiation is the relationship a child has to his/her parents. It is most commonly deemed as a son’s relationship with his father.

In literature, filiation involves the notion of duty a child has to their parents in return for love and upbringing. This may be looking after them in old age or respecting their opinion.

2. How is it made?

A child/parent relationship is described.The child is presented the possibility of moving past the parent.
 The child either respects or abandons the parent.The bond between child and parent either deepens or collapses.

3. Examples in literature

Digging 
by Seamus Heaney

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Title: Digging
Author: Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
Published: 1966 (in Death of a Naturalist)
Language: English
Genre: Poetry
Synopsis: The poet admires the manual arable work his father did, acknowledging he could not manage such physical labour. Within this admiration is nostalgia for the old rural economy. The poet also compares this honest working of the land with his own profession, writing, conducted safely indoors. However, the poet is aware that different generations have different talents, and perhaps by excelling in his craft he can match and honour his father.

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. About which family members is the poet thinking?
2. What is different about the son’s lifestyle compared to that of the previous generations?
3. Unlike the father and the grandfather, the son does not have a spade. What is his trade instead? 
Identifying Techniques

4. What examples of alliteration can be seen in the poem?
5. What onomatopoeia is used in the penultimate stanza?
6. What is the son’s metaphorical spade for digging? 
Text Analysis

7. What is the writer’s feeling about the previous generations? How is this feeling shown in the poem?
8. In what way is the son already ‘digging’? How is this shown in the text?
9. Which line in the third stanza is used as a time shift?
10. How are the various senses used and described in this poem? 
Theme Exploration

11. What process does the poet use to examine his relationship with his father? Ultimately, what does he have to say about the relationship and his place in the family line? 
Provoking Opinion

12. Do you think the digging-writing metaphor in this poem works? Do you think that the physical descriptions of digging work as metaphorical descriptions of writing?
13. Is following in a parent’s footsteps a source of pride? Is breaking family tradition a source of shame?
14. Traditional ‘working the land’ lifestyles are being largely replaced in many places. Do you think they should be preserved? Would you personally like to partake in this manner of everyday life?

Le Père Goriot 
by Honoré de Balzac

Know Your Book

Title: Le Père Goriot (*trans: Father Goriot)
Author: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
Published: 1835
Language: French
Genre: Fiction; novel; realism
Synopsis: The retired Goriot, law student Eugène, and criminal Vautrin live in a Paris boarding house. With Eugène and Vautrin both desiring money, the criminal proposes he kill a man and Eugène marry the victim’s wealthy sister. Goriot, however, wants Eugène for his daughter Delphine. When that plan fails, and another daughter reveals she has been selling property to pay a lover’s debts, the morally decent Goriot sees he has failed to provide for his family.
Setting: Paris; 1819
Characters: Jean-Joachim Goriot; Vautrin; Eugène; Delphine

Excerpt (translated from French):

“My daughters told you that they were coming, didn’t they, Christophe? Go again to them, and I will give you five francs. Tell them that I am not feeling well, that I should like to kiss them both and see them once again before I die. Tell them that, but don’t alarm them more than you can help.”
“How you must love your own father and mother!” said the old man, and grasped the student’s hand in both of his. It was a feeble, trembling grasp. “I am going to die; I shall die without seeing my daughters; do you understand? To be always thirsting, and never to drink; that has been my life for the last ten years…. I have no daughters, my sons-in-law killed them. No, since their marriages they have been dead to me. Fathers should petition the Chambers to pass a law against marriage. If you love your daughters, do not let them marry. A son-in-law is a rascal who poisons a girl’s mind and contaminates her whole nature. Let us have no more marriages! It robs us of our daughters; we are left alone upon our deathbeds, and they are not with us then. They ought to pass a law for dying fathers. This is awful! It cries for vengeance! They cannot come, because my sons-in-law forbid them!… Kill them!… Restaud and the Alsatian, kill them both! They have murdered me between them!… Death or my daughters!… Ah! it is too late, I am dying, and they are not here!… Dying without them!… Nasie! Fifine! Why do you not come to me? Your papa is going——”
“Dear Father Goriot, calm yourself. There, there, lie quietly and rest; don’t worry yourself, don’t think.”

1. Père Goriot believes his daughters’ husbands are

a) sympathetic
b) benevolent
c) anarchists
d) unfaithful
e) manipulative

Answer
e
2. ‘To be always thirsting, and never to drink.’ This phrase refers to

a) Père Goriot’s recovery from alcoholism
b) Père Goriot’s unfulfilled wish to see his daughters
c) Père Goriot’s desire to punish his sons-in-law
d) The sons-in-law’s use of Père Goriot’s money, rather than earning their own
e) The daughters’ inabilities to find kind-hearted husbands

Answer
b
3. The scene makes use of

a) pathos
b) sarcasm
c) onomatopoeia
d) euphemism
e) suspense

Answer
a
4. The student’s attitude towards Père Goriot is

a) unmoved
b) calming
c) bored
d) detached
e) engaging

Answer
b
5. In what way does the parent-child relationship in Père Goriot directly contrast to that portrayed in Digging?

a) The parent is angry with the child
b) The relationship is being rebuilt
c) The mother is absent from the description
d) The child is moving away from the parent
e) The child is becoming like the parent

Answer
d
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