Analyzing contemporary literature is proving to be a little more complex than I had anticipated, for it seems to lack a need to make sense. However, I can see I have been influenced by the News story and by this assignment's directions, so the connection between Heaney's Punishment and the news article is very clear to me. The violence against a teenager adulteress illustrated in the poem appears to be a clear allusion to the acts committed by IRA described in the news piece. They both portray irrational acts suffered by young women, which could only be explained if one does as Mr. MacDermott says and "try to see it in the context of the time". This link is even stronger when Heaney mentions a beautiful 'tar-black face', which had nothing to do with the 1st century C.E. episode, and everything to do with IRA.
There have been countless incidents throughout history (witch-hunts, crimes committed by vigilante groups, unjustifiable humiliating acts, etc.)
from which the author could have chosen to use in his poem; however, I believe that he meant to show how archaic such practice is. If this were indeed one of his objectives, I felt he succeeded. Yet, if he wanted to condemn these actions, I think he fell short, because Heaney ends up exposing an unchangeable and therefore (almost) excusable feature of the human nature: the inability to accept a truth that is different from your own - both women had their reasons to act the way they did, but still, they were attacked for not acting in a way certain people around them believed they should. As the poet states, they were mere 'scapegoats'.
What he certainly meant to condemn was another fairly common human characteristic: conformism caused by self preservation instinct. He talks...