Mid-Term Break- Critical Evaluation

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Critical Essay-Poetry
"Mid-Term Break"
Darren Parker

Séamus Heaney's "Mid-Term Break" is among the few poems that have emotionally moved me. The writer uses many techniques including similes, metaphors and beautiful lexical choice to convey the sombre and miserable situation of his brother's death. In this essay I am going to analyse the language of the poem and discuss, in more detail, the techniques used to convey the real sadness of the situation.

"Mid-Term Break" is a very emotive poem in which Séamus Heaney reflects on the untimely demise of his little brother Christopher and explains what was going through his mind at that time. The poem's title suggests a holiday but this "break" does not happen for pleasant reasons. For most of the poem Heaney writes of people's differing reactions and at the end he is able to grieve honestly. In the poem Heaney travels home from school to attend the funeral of his 4-year old brother who was killed in a tragic accident. During the funeral Heaney is confronted with many issue's that make him feel uneasy while he still struggles to come to terms with the incident that stands before him: the death of his little brother!

In this poem, the writer uses many techniques to express the misery of the situation. The writer uses effective word choice in the first stanza.

"I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close"

Here we can see that the word "all" suggests that Heaney's time waiting seems intermiable which adds to the sadness of the situation. Furthermore the "counting" of the bells advocates that Heaney is bored but also implies that he is desperate to leave school which creates a very tense atmosphere. In addition the word "knelling" ironically suggests a funeral bell, rather than a bell for lessons. I think the opening of the poem has a great effect on us as tension is created and we get an idea that something horrific has happened but we do not know what.

The poet effectively expresses the unhappiness he feels as a result of the fatality of his brother through the description of the actions of other family members.

"I met my father crying he had always taken funerals in his stride"

This clearly shows that the father, apparently always strong at other funerals, is distraught by his child's death which emphasises how much of a tragedy this death was and how greatly it has affected everyone as even the most unemotional man has been reduced to tears.

"my mother held my hand in hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs"

The poet also explains that the mother is too angry to cry, the words "angry" and "tearless" effectively illustrate this. The mother is not grieving properly as she is too irate to weep and would rather console her children and stay strong as an example to her family. Furthermore, Heaney is made perturbed when he notices the happiness of the baby on seeing him.

"the baby coed and laughed and rocked the pram"

Here we can clearly see that the baby's behavior is inappropriate for it is a funeral, a time of mourning however the baby is unaware of this which gives off a great sense of innocence .This makes Heaney realise that his brother should not be dead but should be joyful and carefree like the baby. The baby's laughing also gives us connotations of great innocence as it does not know what is going on which is similar to the way we look at Heaney's brother . I can really empathise with Heaney as I truly understand what he is going through for I have also lost a family member at a young age who was close to me. If I was in Heaney's position I would feel extremely miserable and distressed. No word could truthfully describe the pain I would feel if my family were to suffer this way. Heaney captures the awkwardness of public displays of grief in this poem.

"Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow"

In the poem we notice that the father is accompanied by "Big Jim Evans" who is...
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