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A comparison of 'Midterm break' and 'The early purges' by Seamus Heaney

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Other cultures assignment. A comparison of 'Midterm Break' and 'The Early Purges' by Seamus Heaney For this assignment we have studied two poems by Seamus Heaney. Both of these poems are linked because they are about Heaney's early memories of death and how he coped with these difficult situations when he was a young. The subject matter of the poem 'Midterm Break' is about his brother's death. It also tells us about his feelings about this death. Heaney is away at boarding school. Waiting in the college sick bay. Heaney writes 'At two 'o' clock our neighbours drove me home'. Which shows that his parents were unable to come to pick him up as they might have been held up with something. Heaney wanted to express his feelings, to let us know what he felt like having to cope with the death of his little brother. It must have been a particularly difficult situation for him. There is a lot of sadness in the poem from the beginning. Heaney writes of 'bells knelling classes to a close'. 'Knelling is a sound of funeral bells, not a school bell. ...read more.


The last line stands out from the rest of the poem. The first time you are aware of the boy's age is on the last line where Heaney writes: "A four foot box, a foot for every year" This tells us that the boy was only four years old. The parents must be really upset to see their youngest son lying dead in front of them. The title 'Midterm Break sounds as if it is about a holiday. However it is about the funeral of Heaney's little brother. At first Heaney describes his brother as a 'corpse', which is a cold unfeeling description of his brother. The boy is referred to as 'it' not 'him' which is unfeeling and is also cold. In the next verse the boy is referred to as a human again. Heaney says ' I saw him, for the first time in six weeks'. We have an impression that he is finally feeling some comfort when he writes 'snowdrops and candles soothed the bed side'. In the sixth stanza snowdrops can be seen as a symbol of his brother who is like a tiny delicate flower. ...read more.


But the way in which he describes the death of the kittens shows some sympathetic feelings. We are made to feel sympathy for the kittens. Heaney coldly describes them as 'scraggy wee shits'. This is an unpleasant image of the cats being left to rot on the dung heaps. Dan is hard and cruel 'sure isn't it better for them now'. Heaney writes in the fourth stanza that he was frightened; this contrasts greatly with dans attitude. Heaney 'sadly hangs around the yard' for some time afterwards. Heaney forgets this image but it comes back to him when he sees Dan killing other animals. He appears to have come to term with the farmyard slaughter when he grows up. Heaney writes 'it makes sense', this suggests the same cold-hearted views as Dan taggart. The last line suggests that Heaney realises now that some animals are pests. He still does not forget the unsettling incident when he was younger. Both poems show how Heaney deals with death. The death of animals as well as his brother affected him. In one poem he is dealing with an accident, a death and also peoples reactions. In this poem he deals with deliberate killing of animals, this is a colder, harder poem and it is also unsentimental. ...read more.

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