¡°Mid-Term Break¡±: Confusion and the Atmosphere

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Ordinarily poems about death are rather straightforward and predictable before the end. ¡°Mid-Term Break,¡± by Seamus Heaney, however, handles this subject in a manner that allows the reader to feel the gloomy atmosphere and sympathize with the experience. Heaney illustrates time flow, atmosphere, and confusion through his use of structure, objective uses and contrast of language; he brings the reader into the poem to more fully experience the event.

Heaney uses detached and unemotional language to portray the places he passes through by dragging the time flow. The opening stanza begins with ¡°morning,¡±(1) but it is already ¡°two o¡¯clock,¡±(3), indicating several hours have passed while the speaker waits in the infirmary. After the neighbors drive the speaker home, he moves to ¡°the porch,¡±(4) and then into the house. ¡°At ten o¡¯clock¡±(14) and ¡°Next morning,¡±(16) suggest that speaker was severely shocked that he got a feeling of numbness rather than sadness and had slept rather than staying up all night. The reader now gets a feeling that Heaney is being unemotional regarding time and places passed by the speaker. This affects the mood of the poem, and emphasizes sadness.

Since death is can be sad, Heaney treats it as a heavy and serious event: He sketches the gloomy atmosphere of the funeral in an unusual way, by using contrasting. In first stanza, Heaney uses reader¡¯s general concept of school bell. ¡°Counting bells knelling classes to a close,¡±(2) sets the tone for the poem. The knelling bell sounds like a funeral bell, which is a contrast from what reader usually think of school bell; joyful because it tells the end of school day. This knelling foreshadows what is going to happen later in the poem. Another contrasting Heaney uses is contrast of scenes. The second stanza begins ¡°I met my father crying,¡±(4) which is in contrast to ¡°He had always taken funerals in his stride.¡±(5) By using contradiction, Heaney skillfully portrays how painful and...
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