Study Guide

Follower Family

By Seamus Heaney

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Though the saying, "like father like son" might not perfectly apply to these two (the father seems to be equipped with a set of strengths and skills that the son exhibits no evidence of having), that doesn't mean the bond between them is any less significant. The fact that the son admires his father so much only reinforces the power of the father-son relationship in "Follower"—they're nothing alike in terms of skill set, and yet the son is so completely fixated on the father as a role model, and the father is at least able to tolerate the bumbling son. Their family bond goes way beyond the camaraderie of shared interests. They're bound by blood, a fact that's driven home by the poem's ending as the two switch roles in each other's lives. The family that takes turns annoying each other together stays together.

Questions About Family

  1. What about this father/son relationship might hints that these two are close? 
  2. What does work have to do with family tradition? And why might the boy want to do the same work as his father? 
  3. If the son didn't end up having any of the farming skills his father had, do you think it's possible to have learned anything at all from following his dad around the fields? What parts of the poem support your answer? 
  4. What do the last three lines say about the complex relationship between these family members?

Chew on This

Plowing, schmowing—the son isn't necessarily interested in plowing at all. He just wants to do what his father does; their father-son bond is incredibly strong.

Work is something that has always been closely related to family tradition (people inherit family businesses and trades all the time). So the fact that the son shows no promise for plowing (worst farmer ever) is disappointing for the father.

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