Mid Term Break - Seamus Heaney

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Mid-term Break

Seamus Heaney’s ‘Mid-Term Break’ is a shocking and heart-rending poem about a schoolboy going through the after effects of the death of his four years old younger brother. It shows the reader the emotions and events that the boy has to go through, and explains what the words ‘Mid-term Break’ really mean to the young boy.

The narrator is a schoolboy, telling us the story of his experiences through the wake, remembering every detail and addressing us with every memory and emotion he can remember. The poem is talking in the past tense, as though the boy is looking back at his past and telling us about it at the same time. The poem is a true story about the poet when he was younger, and now Heaney reflects back to his emotions and feelings.

At first glance, the title tricks the reader into thinking that it’s a happy poem, most people associate the words mid-term break with joy and playfulness, but by reading more into the first stanza, it is obvious that this is not the case. The simple three lines stanza structure makes the poem look rather appetising for the eye and makes it easy to read. Heaney has used enjambment to mark out the different scenes, making it easy to understand where and when the poem moves on, and the lack of punctuation makes the poem flow when read aloud.

The first scene is set in the school’s sick bay- a quiet place for the boy to come to terms with the news. The use of the words ‘sick bay’ is a sign that there is something wrong, and although we do not know what the problem is yet, this indicates that he needed a quite place to be alone. The narrator gives a clue to the problem by using the word ‘knelling’, which implies that there has been some kind of a death, ‘Counting bells knelling to a close.’ It shows that the time is dragging on, while he counts the bells, bringing him closer and closer to the end of the day. This could mean that he is somewhat dreading the day ending, or is agitated to be picked up and to go...
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