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That the Science of Cartography Is Limited

That the Science of Cartography Is Limited


by Eavan Boland

The Famine Road

Symbol Analysis

So, is a famine road just a really hungry stretch of pavement? Um. No. As we explain in the "In a Nutshell" section, the famine roads that crisscross Ireland's landscape are no small matter. Even though they're not represented on maps, they are a vital reminder of Ireland's troubled political past with England and the tragedy of the potato famine. The famine roads are even more than symbols—they really and truly exist in the Irish countryside. They are materializations of a tragic event, and the catalyst for Boland's poem.

  • Lines 5-8: The speaker doesn't recognize the famine road at first. Her beloved is the one to point it out to her. 
  • Lines 9-16: The speaker experiences the famine roads for herself. She sees the stones, the ivy, and the grass that obscures them from sight. She experiences the famine road with her own senses. By contrast, her beloved jumps into a history lesson, and describes how and why they were built with facts and figures at his fingertips. Thanks, bro.
  • Lines 25-28: The speaker talks about famine roads in relation to maps of Ireland. The famine roads, which go from nowhere to nowhere, are not represented by the maps. The national tragedy of the potato famine, which scars the Irish landscape, is not represented on its maps. We think that's a pretty big oversight, Shmoopers.

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