The Skunk Wife

Of all the readings for this week, “The Skunk” by Seamus Heaney was most interesting for me. It is simple and tells a story which I could actually understand for once.

Reading through the poem once, the placement of the stanzas did not make any sense. I felt the flow was butchered because the opening stanza is about the skunk and then there are three stanzas not related to the skunk at all, and then in the fifth stanza, Heaney returns to the idea of the skunk.

After a slower reading of the poem, I understood that a husband is writing about how his love for his wife has rekindled after eleven years of marriage. He is memorized by his wife all over again. The author used a skunk to symbolize the aura that he feels from his wife. Apparently there is a mystery and glamor to a skunk that has instigated a new found image to his wife. This helped me understand the stanza placements. Heaney’s poem makes a full circle. He starts with an introduction to the idea of the skunk and then goes through his situation/life and thought process. Then, he circles back to the idea of the skunk to show that his wife has the characteristics that he pictures a skunk has. Her nightdress is black like a skunk and she has the ambiance of a skunk. He states, “And there she was, the intent and glamorous, // Ordinary, mysterious skunk, // Mythologized, demythologized, // Snuffing the boards five feet beyond me.”

One comment

  • Thoughtful post, Alice! I like your attention to structure here, as well as your willingness to “go with” Heaney as he refigures what we might think of as an unappealing image—a skunk—into a symbol for glamor, mystery, and rekindled love.

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