Mid-Term Break Seamus Heaney

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Seamus Heaney
‘Mid-Term Break’

The main theme of ‘Mid-Term Break’ is the tragedy of the death of a young child, whose life ‘break[s]’ when he is only four years old; this tragedy also ‘break[s]’ the lives of others, specifically the child’s parents and brother. The tone of the poem is very sombre, as it explores the manifold ways in which lives are broken and shattered by death. In literal terms, the title refers to the ‘Mid-term Break’ of a school vacation; in this sense it is highly ironic, as the holiday the poem’s narrator gets from school after ‘six weeks’ of classes is not for a vacation, but for a funeral. However, as indicated in reference to the theme, ‘break’ has other meanings relating to the broken life of the dead child and to the broken life of those close to him. Additionally, ‘Mid-Term’ can be read not just as referring to a school holiday, but to a term of life; thus the child’s life has been broken prematurely, in ‘mid-term.’ So while on a literal level the title refers to a school vacation, on a metaphoric level it refers to a life which has been broken before its natural span. Though the poem is set out in even three-lined verses, except for the anomalous last line, it is actually structured around three geographic locales, locales which are also distinguished from each other in temporal terms: the ‘college,’ location of the first verse, in which the narrator remains ‘all morning’ until ‘two o’clock,’ the narrator’s house, mainly the front porch and front room, where the narrator remains until ‘ten o’clock’ at night when the body is brought home and, finally, the upstairs room where the corpse is laid out, which the narrator visits the ‘Next morning.’ The movement is one from the exterior world of school and non-familial acquaintances, to the interior world of the house, friends and family, and finally to the upstairs room where the narrator stands alone with the body of his brother. This movement can reflect the way in...
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