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Mid-Term Break By Seamus Heaney

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Mid-Term Break By Seamus Heaney I have reacently read and studied the poem "Mid Term Break" and this essay I am going to explain in detail how the poet Seamus Heaney uses form, vocabulary and technical devices to help convey his meaning. The title "Mid-Term Break" sounds rather ambiguous, happy and sad all at the same time and has been chosen very well. The title at a first glance seems rather boring and dull but once you have read the whole poem you understand why the poet has chosen these words and why they fit so well in tune with the rest of the poem. I think this is mainly because of the happy and sad meaning involved with the title. In the opening stanza Heaney tells us how he, "sat all morning in the college sick bay". Which suggests a rather boring time but this develops into a more sad and serious time which is a rather large and serious mood change. ...read more.


This has been used very well to set the scene. Heaney says: "The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram" We can see here how Heaney uses happy verbs "cooed" "laughed" and "rocked" to convey a moment of happiness amongst the midst of sadness. Throughout the rest of the verse he talks about being embarrassed which shows his feelings to the men who he was probably meeting for the first time. In the fourth stanza Heaney uses inverted commas for the first and only time during the poem. I think he does this to emphasize those four little words, "sorry for my trouble" as these words have a huge part to play in this stanza and the whole poem. These words are very sad and they have bad connotations which sum up the whole meaning of the poem. In the next stanza, stanza five, Heaney says: "with the corpse stanched and bandaged by the nurses" This line is very sad and dreary because no-one thinks of a corpse as being something that is happy and the words stanched and bandaged also have bad connotations. ...read more.


The phrase "four foot box as in his cot" shows us just how young the boy was and in a sense shows how much he'll be mist by those who have known him. The final stanza of the poem contains two separate sets of alliteration and is the only time the poem rhymes. With the words clear and year running from stanza seven through to stanza eight the final stanza which is only one line long. "a four foot box a foot for every year" This line contains iambic pentameter. This tells us that the young boy was only four years old and this line is very effective in getting his message through to the reader. This line is very strong and dramatic but calm at the same time. Overall the structure of the poem contains eight stanzas seven of which contain 3 lines each and the last which I think the strongest contains only one line. Heaney uses alliteration, onomatopoeia, iambic pentameter and metaphorical language and I think he conveys his meaning extremely well. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This question asks for an analysis of the effect of 'Mid-Term Break' by Seamus Heaney. The candidate very vaguely focuses on what is required, such as the poet's use of imagery and rhythm, but it is not at all fully ...

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Response to the question

This question asks for an analysis of the effect of 'Mid-Term Break' by Seamus Heaney. The candidate very vaguely focuses on what is required, such as the poet's use of imagery and rhythm, but it is not at all fully explored. Quite frequently, this answer slips into a non-analytical writing style with personal response. The Response to the Question is average/poor as there is no real exploration of what Heaney is trying to say. This candidate frequently refers to "the overall feel of the poem" (or words to that effect), but I don't think they once mention what actually happens in the poem - it's almost like they expect the examiner to know what happens, when in fact, the examiner will 'play dumb' and expect a crystal-clear explanation of the poem (very briefly) before beginning, with other explanations further on if required to test whether the candidate is aware of the poem's intentions and how to successfully structure a response.

Level of analysis

The answer is not very well established as it merely comments on what poetic devices are used by Heaney rather than comment on their effect. The candidate's repeated comments about the overall feel of the poem are extremely limited and offer no insight whatsoever; they merely comment on how effective they think it is - they barely even mention what actually happens in the poem. A small paragraph outlining the poem at the beginning would've countered this, and would've given the candidate a chance to score some context marks as well.
The candidate quotes important sections of the poem but rarely ever analyses them to their full effect. For example: "He also talks about, “bells knelling”, which in itself sums up most of the poem." This is a very lazy response. The candidate cannot simply say that that phrase "sums up most of the poem" - what does the use of this aural (audio) imagery ACTUALLY say? Bells knelling are a sound associated with death; the eventuality or the presence of death, and can also be associated with funerals. This candidate failed to acknowledge Heaney was attending the funeral of his younger brother, who was killed by a car accident aged four. This contextual appreciation is imperative for understanding the true sadness of the poem. It is not enough for the candidate to simply comment on what happens in the poem - this will result in nothing higher than a D grade, if that. There must be an effective analysis into how the audience feel when reading the poem and the device the poet uses in order to achieve that response.
Later on, when the candidate talks about the imagery of snowdrops and candles being symbolic of innocence and the presence of white conjuring images of purity, the answer strengthens, but there is not enough consistent analysis of this level to grade this much higher than a middle D grade.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is relatively fine. There are a few spelling errors and inconsistencies in punctuation and grammar, but the answer is still comprehendable.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 22/02/2012

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