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Poem Analysis: Mid-term Break

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Introduction

Poem Analysis: Mid-term Break Seamus Heaney himself is the narrator in the poem, Mid-term Break, a sad story from his childhood. It depicts the reactions of everyone around him and of himself to a death in the family. It does this through the poem's three parts: the waiting at school, the behaviour of everyone at home, and his solitary viewing of the body. This poem is unsentimental but full of emotions. The first stanza introduces Seamus sitting alone at school, in the "sick bay". He is waiting, and time passes slowly as he counts "bells knelling classes to a close". This tells the reader that the mid-term break is not a school holiday, as classes are still taking place. The boy is eventually picked up by his neighbours, which shows the reader that his parents are too busy to pick up their son, so it must be an important occasion. The next stanza starts with Seamus arriving home, and in the porch meeting his father, who is crying. This stanza tells us that we are witnessing a funeral. The reader still does not know who has died, but we know that it is a family member, perhaps a sibling or even the boy's mother. ...read more.

Middle

This very loose rhyming scheme is present throughout most of the poem and creates the impression of story telling. The exception to this is the last two lines, which form a rhyming couplet to make an impact: "no gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear. /A four foot box, a foot for every year". The poem contains eight sentences, which run through the lines and the stanzas, making the poem less like a poem and more like a story. The sentences are a mixture of lengths, which makes some of them very simple, for example "Next morning I went up to the room." Others, in particular the sentence which starts with the third stanza and runs through into the fifth, are very descriptive and show that he is taking everything in at once. The mood in the poem is sombre and sad. The tone of the poem is one of sorrow, grief, hurt and distress. The father is crying, the mother is so distraught she cannot cry. Heaney does not state his own emotions, but it is clear that he is hurting and however much he hides it, the reader can sense it through the poem's tone. The language in the poem is vernacular or every-day, simple, sparse and clear. ...read more.

Conclusion

One of the more striking images is the image of the "snowdrops and candles". Snowdrops are white and pure, which suggests innocence. Snowdrops grow up through frost and they represent a symbol of new life after death. The candles have a symbol of remembrance, and give a hint of religious significance. There is one main metaphor in the poem: the dead child is "wearing a poppy bruise". The idea that he is wearing the bruise gives the idea that it can almost be wiped off, or that it is not really part of the boy. This shows the reluctance of Heaney to admit that his younger brother is dead. This is echoed in the simile of "He lay in the four foot box as in a cot"; he would rather that his little brother is sleeping, not dead. In twenty-two lines of simple language, almost prose; Seamus Heaney has created a striking and shocking picture of the tragic death of a child. The poem is deceptive in its simplicity because it is full of imagery and has a deep impact. Without allowing himself any sentimentality, Heaney leaves us with a deep impression of the effect of the boy's death on the whole family. The last line in the poem, "A four foot box, a foot for every year", is one that is very famous. This is because it stays with the reader long after they have read the poem. ...read more.

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