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Compare and contrast the poems 'Out Out-' by Robert Frost and 'Mid Term Break' by Seamus Heany

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Caitlin Masters-Williams 11N Compare and contrast the poems 'Out Out-' by Robert Frost and 'Mid Term Break' by Seamus Heany The subject of both poems is the untimely death of young people in tragic accidents rather than sickness. Strangely both boys are killed by machinery, the boy in "Out, Out-' by a mechanical saw and the boy in "Mid-Term Break" by a car. Both poems describe the reactions of the families to the deaths each of the families reacting quite differently. Both poems talk about the deaths of young boys who have older or younger siblings; one has at least one sister, while the other has an elder brother and a younger sibling. "Mid-Term Break" is written in the first person and is a far more personal poem consequently the emotions expressed in it are much easier observe and appreciate than in "Out, Out-' which is written in the third person, distancing the reader and giving a much colder perspective of the events. "Mid-Term Break" is set in Northern Ireland while "Out, Out-' is set "far into Vermont". "Mid-Term Break" tells the tale of an older brother summoned home from college because of the death of his young brother who has been run over by a car. ...read more.


The final line in "Out, Out-" is shocking because of the coldness of the reaction of the family which alienates the reader from the scene. While the reader feels the family should feel compassion for their lost loved one, the family carry on with their every-day lives as if nothing has happened. The language in 'Mid Term Break' adds to the imagery; the 'knelling' of the bells indicates immediately that there has been a death as the word 'knelling' is used to describe funeral bells, and the phrase 'counting the bells' may also remind the older boy of his brother's age. The poet keeps a great deal back for the climax of the poem saving the details about what has happened until then, although hints are given in the first few lines. The reference to 'Father crying' is telling, as is Big Jim Evans's comment that it was 'a hard blow'; strong men have clearly been terribly affected by this tragedy, which indicates that this has been a traumatic and painful event. The contrast of the men mourning and crying with the baby's cooing and laughing is a strong reminder of innocence at that young age and is also a reminder that the boy who died was little more than a baby himself, adding to the tragic feel of the poem. ...read more.


Personally I find 'Out, Out-' the more compelling of the two poems. It is unexpected and original in the way it faces bereavement with such coldness and detachment while 'Mid Term Break' is almost hackneyed in its description of death and mourning. The contrast between the attitudes of the bereaved in the two poems could be because of their different religions with the Protestants either keeping their grief to themselves or merely accepting God's hand in the tragedy while the Catholics find solace in an open display of grief and the comfort of ritual such as the flowers and candles and lying in state of the corpse in an open coffin for people to pay their last respects. Alternatively it may hint at a completely different lifestyle; while the family in 'Mid Term Break' seem to be quite well off, the family in 'Out, Out-' may have to concentrate on survival and therefore have to carry on eking out a living and do not have the time nor the energy to mourn. I cannot truthfully say that I enjoyed either of the two poems, but they both dealt with the subject of the sudden death of a child in ways that remain with you long after you have finished reading the poems. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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