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Mid Term Break Critical Essay

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Introduction

MID-TERM BREAK In this essay I will discuss a poem that deals with an unhappy experience. The poem I will discuss is Seamus Heaney's "Mid-term Break." This particular poem is about the death of Heaney's brother. This makes the title ironic, as mid-term break is usually a happy time. This is one of many contrasts within the poem. In the first stanza of the poem, Heaney is waiting to be taken home from his boarding school. He describes "Sitting all morning in the college sick-bay, counting bells knelling classes to a close." The repetition of the letters 'c' and 'l' give the line a rhythm of it's own, almost sounding like the bell Heaney is describing. The use of the letter 'c' gives a harsh sound to the line, contradicted by the use of the letter 'l', which softens the grating sound of the 'c'. The sluggishness of time passing by is emphasised by the 'l', as the speaker would slow down to say it. By "sitting all morning" Heaney shows us that he was waiting patiently. ...read more.

Middle

Another contrast comes in the next few lines: "Whispers informed strangers that I was the eldest, away at school, as my mother held my hand in hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs." Heaney uses an enjambment here. It says how he is still, in this case, treated younger by his mother, even though he is the eldest. His mother could be unconsciously replacing Heaney's little brother with Heaney himself. It also shows Heaney's confusion by not knowing how to react. The idea of passing time continues in the next verse with, "At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived with the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses." The use of the word "corpse" could possibly mean that Heaney is distancing himself from the horror, as he is possibly unable to accept the death. Using "the corpse" instead of "his corpse" shows that Heaney does not think of him as his brother anymore, making the line more upsetting. "Snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside" is a line in the next verse that exercises personification. ...read more.

Conclusion

He was disgusted, possibly feeling contempt for what happened to his brother. This line stands alone to make the reader feel upset and draw attention to how young Heaney's brother was when he died. By doing this, Heaney completely changed to tone of the line. The line standing alone also emphasises how unfair it was that a child this young could die like this, and shows that life is not safely held, and can be taken away at any moment. Seamus Heaney uses many techniques to accentuate the unhappiness of his brother's death, and to develop the reader's understanding of the experience. In my opinion, the most effective of these techniques is the use of contrasts. At certain points in the poem, certainly towards the end, you are not sure whether Heaney is outraged at the death of his brother, or whether he is accepting of it. He creates this uncertainty by using contrasts throughout. Heaney's choice of language and structure describe - and so help the reader understand - how unnatural and horrifying it is for a child to die. ...read more.

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