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Discuss your understanding of 'Mid-Term Break' by Seamus Heaney and 'Second Opinion' by Douglas Dunn. Say which of them most effectively conveys a sense of grief.

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Introduction

Discuss your understanding of 'Mid-Term Break' by Seamus Heaney and 'Second Opinion' by Douglas Dunn. Say which of them most effectively conveys a sense of grief. 'Mid-Term Break' by Seamus Heaney is a poem about the tragic loss of a young boy. Heaney wrote it as a result of his own infant brother's (Christopher) death. Its content is dramatic and heart rendering in describing the feelings, emotions and reactions of Heaney himself, his relations and others post the tragic event. 'Second Opinion' by Douglas Dunn is another personal attempt, which is taken from Dunn's award winning collection of poems called 'Elegies'. Its content is again dramatic with an element of foreboding and portrays a husband's response and anger to the news that his wife has been diagnosed with cancer. This mirrors Dunn's real life tragedy, as his wife died from cancer in August 1981. Mid-Term Break The title, 'Mid-Term Break', is one of certain positive connotations, such as holidays and happiness. This certainly is incongruent to the content of the poem, as this "break" does not happen for pleasant reasons. The poem begins with the first person pronoun "I". Clearly, this shows the narrative is written in the first person, giving a personal and intimate edge to the composition and shows the reader that Heaney is the narrator. ...read more.

Middle

Literally it means his mother was too angry to cry, which implies that she is suffering from guilt. The facts of the ordeal return as we read~ "at ten o'clock the ambulance arrived". Again, he uses the precise time to convey the harsh reality of the experience. He refers to his dead brother as the "corpse", which implies an attitude of disbelief and denial. It seems as if he does not believe (or want to believe) that under the bandages is not his brother but a corpse, quite a usual reaction to the death of a loved one. In stanza six, Heaney continues with the earlier idea of traditions and their worthlessness. The reader is told that "snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside" which has a spiritual aura of peace and tranquillity. The noun "bedside" is significant as it shows the reader that Heaney feels that these traditions/rituals have no effect on his dead brother. Their effect only soothes those who stand by the bedside. It is striking that Heaney used snowdrops and candles as these mirror the life span of his brother~ his brother's life ended quickly, just like snowdrops and candles do. The white innocence and purity contrasts with the red poppy bruise in the seventh stanza. The poppy bears significance as it is the flower of pain relief~ opiates are derived from poppies, and it is also the flower of remembrance~ poppies are worn as a remembrance to war victims. ...read more.

Conclusion

This description lacks dignity and creates an impression of social awkwardness. He describes the atmosphere in the next line by the simile "the minutes went by like a winter". On a literal level it shows that time is going slow as he waits, but as winter has connotations of a cold, dark and depressive time and has a link to illnesses. This is supposed to mirror the atmosphere of the poem. The waiting ceases in the stanza three when Dunn is called into, seemingly, a Doctor's consulting room. The doctor is described as "young", the pre-modifier gives the impression that Dunn feels he lacks experience, is possibly incompetent and perhaps gives incorrect opinions. Dunn's relationship with the doctor is socially awkward, their conversation is abrupt with minor sentences and interrogatives to raise questions about the illness, for example "what is?" Dunn's manner is both confused and desperate. He is told that she has a cancerous tumour~ "malignancy" which links with "apparently well", as this illness is not overt. The language is evasive, her cancer is referred to as "it", which contributes to the idea of social awkwardness and furthermore, Dunn's disbelief in that she has cancer. At this point the reader may feel that this woman is close to Dunn due to his reactions. There is a subtle physical reference~ "she's an artist!" that draws attention to her profession to give a clearer picture of where the tumour is. ...read more.

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