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Comparing jk rowling’s speech and seamus heaney’s speech


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Comparing jk rowling’s speech and seamus heaney’s speech

  1. 1. Tecirlioglu 1 Siir Tecirlioglu Ms. Standley English A2 Year 1 HL June 6, 2011 Comparing JK Rowling’s Speech and Seamus Heaney’s Speech JK Rowling, in June 2008, and Seamus Heaney gave commencement speeches at two differentuniversities. Seamus Heaney addressed the May 1996 graduates of the University of North Carolina atChapel Hill. JK Rowling addressed the June 2008 graduates of the Harvard University. The differencebetween the two authors’ techniques of delivering the speeches can be seen even from the openingsentences. Rowling starts her speech by addressing almost anyone that was present at theCommencement Ceremony unlike Heaney who addresses only the graduates. The speeches have manydifferences in their content, tone and use of humor which affect their messages and delivery. The content of the texts is the message the authors want to deliver and it affects the audience andtheir reactions. Rowling talks about her life starting from her entry to college and ending in where she istoday. The content of her work includes her interactions with her parents, being poor, becoming rich,her book(s), her marriage, and most of all, her life experiences on her own in order to get to a certainsuccessful point in life. She talks about very sad events in her life and even admits in the followingsentence that her life was quiet miserable blames herself for it: “The fears that my parents had had forme, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggestfailure I knew” (paragraph 17). In her speech, she compares the 2008 graduates of Harvard to her ownlife in the following way: “…the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not verywell-acquainted with failure”. She points out the importance of the content by pointing out ironic events
  2. 2. Tecirlioglu 2and general statements that create empathy as well as allusions from her book(s), Harry Potter series.An example of irony is in the 9th paragraph where she compares what her parents expected her tobecome if she only wrote novels and what she is now. The allusions she makes from her books are asfollows: “a gay wizard” (line 12) and “Gryffindor reunion” (line 6) which she connects to the graduates ofHarvard. The content of her speech gets the audience’s attention and eases the delivery of her messageas well as creating a link between her life and the life of the graduates. The content of Heaney’s speech is slightly different than of Rowling. He includes a personalexperience too but only in paragraph 8. He mentions his family in the 9th paragraph but he doesn’t godeep into that topic. Instead, he gives advices to the graduates about life based on his views. This,clearly, creates empathy between the graduates and Heaney. Besides these limited similarities betweenthe speeches, there is an important section they both include: how they wrote the speeches. Also, theyboth use the technique of irony. An example of irony in Heaney’s speech can be found in the 8thparagraph: “So, I wrote about the sunlit sand, of the yachts in the bay, of the perfect sand castles and ofdiving in the pool, even though the weather was usually rainy and it was a coal boat rather than a yachtin the bay and I was a farmer’s son who couldn’t have passed through the University of Caroline becauseI couldn’t in fact swim at all, never mind diving into a pool.” There is also humor in this example. On thecontrary, Heaney uses a different technique than Rowling; he includes a poem and he makes his speechmostly around this poem which is about May Fair at Magherafelt and the motif of “faring forth”. Thenarrator of the poem represents the graduates and Heaney connects what she feels, hopes and dreamsof to those of the graduates. He also uses a dialogue (paragraph 6) which he had with his daughter whois most likely to be close to the ages of the graduates. This creates empathy between the graduates andHeaney because they know that he can understand them better due to his talk with his daughter aboutthis. He uses a historical allusion to “Tar Heels” which represents North Carolina. The term tar has beenused in a few of Heaney’s poems. This technique shows his respect to the graduates and his
  3. 3. Tecirlioglu 3understanding of their culture. Therefore, these two main techniques of Heaney’s speech connect theaudience, especially the graduates, to Heaney. It makes the speech more interesting to listen to andmakes the graduates consider the main advices of Heaney in a more serious manner. Another important aspect to discuss is the tone of the speeches which affects the messages of thetexts and how they are delivered. Rowling’s speech has a very sad tone—mostly due to the recalling ofher life experiences. The audience almost feels sorry for what she had been through. This techniquecreates sympathy and removes the distance between one of the most famous people on Earth and the2008 graduates of Harvard. The tone of Heaney’s speech is somewhat different due to the difference inthe content. There is some sadness when he talks about failure and his personal experience but this ispresent in only a few of the paragraphs. The rest is based on giving advices which make the toneencouraging for future success. When comparing the two speeches, the tone plays a crucial role in howthe speech affects the audience and how memorable it is. Since the speech of Rowling has manyinteresting personal points and her tone is very dramatic, the audience gets more interested andremembers many of these points. However, Heaney’s is not as memorable because he gave the classicadvices to the graduates. What is memorable from his speech is the use of poem, “Tar Heels” and hisdialogue with his daughter which. In combination, these create a tone of enthusiasm andencouragement. Finally, the most important part of the speeches that both connect them and separate them ishumor. It is an important result of the combination of the tone and content. In Rowling’s speech, eventhough the tone is sad and the content is about terrible events she went through, she still uses humorfrom time to time. For example, her allusions to Harry Potter are humors. For example the first line ofthe 11th paragraph is humorous as a result of the irony: “I cannot remember telling my parents that Iwas studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day”. There is
  4. 4. Tecirlioglu 4more humor in Heaney’s speech compared to that of Rowling. The poem is the best example to this. Forexample, the first line of the poem sounds enthusiastic: “I am a bouncing fair young girl”. The effect ofhumor is that it takes pressure off on the commencement day and connects the speaker and theaudience by sharing positive energy together. In conclusion, the contents, tones and uses of humor in both texts help the speakers deliver theirmessages easily and effectively—in terms of being memorable. The speeches are connected because ofsome of their purposes. They both want to encourage the graduates to succeed in life but the speakersachieve this through different techniques. Heaney chooses to tell a enthusiastic poem whereas Rowlingchooses to tell about her life experiences. The way they chose to approach their purposes is different inmany aspects as discussed but they are similar in some such as the use of allusions, section on how theywrote the speeches, and the use of irony. The use of irony which usually brought humor to thespeeches, but irony wasn’t the only way they included humor. Another connection between thespeakers is who they are; they are both famous in literature. This contributes to the extent the speechesare remarkable and memorable. Any graduate who has either J.K Rowling or Seamus Heaney speaking intheir commencement would never forget a word they said!