MID TERM BREAK – CRITICAL ANALYSIS.
The poem Mid-Term Break was written by Seamus Heaney in the year 1995. The autobiographic poem essentially focuses on the tragic death of Heaney’s younger brother. The Poem explores the themes of death, growing up, loss of innocence and grief.
The title in the first glance gives the reader the idea about a holiday, but the deeper you divulge into the poem you see that the title masks the darkness, that is death.
The first stanza gives us a depiction of Heaney sitting in his college medical room, waiting for his classes to get over. The poet uses the word knelling, which corresponds with funerals, gives us the hint that something grave has occurred. Heaney uses time as an important insight, here he mentions that his neighbors drove him home at 2 o’clock.
The second stanza builds an atmosphere of tension, and we learn that the patriarch of the family has been brought down to tears, Heaney mentions that his father was a strong and stoic man who never cried in funerals. “And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow” here the word blow is a metaphor, to state that the news that came from Big Jim Evans was heart breaking.
The next three paragraphs are set in the living room, with a lot of people. These stanzas are joined by enjambment. But in between all these people we see a baby who is laughing, which softens the mood. Heaney states that he’s embarrassed as the old men come to shake hands with him, as a way to console him. He felt out of place and this was an unusual situation for him and at this moment he realized that he was a grown up and whatever innocence he had was gone, he had been faced with a circumstance that he was not used. The emotion that he talks about and reflects is that of embarrassment and not sadness, dejection or misery.
Everyone in the house go up to him express their grievances, and we come to know that Heaney was the oldest sibling, they start whispering about him which makes him awkward and self-conscious
“In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.” This is an extract from the poem that shows that Heaney’s mother spots him in the house and goes to him, where she expresses her vulnerability to her son, by clasping her hand in his. She is angry, not only at herself but also the person who was responsible for the death of her child. She is frustrated and distressed about how life is unpredictable and that even though death is certain it was too early for her to lose her son.
In the fifth stanza, we again see the mention of time, here it is ten o’clock, the time in which the ambulance arrived with the “corpse”, here we see that Heaney is distant and isolated as he mentions his younger brother, he doesn’t use his name or anything personal. He treats it as a body that has come. “With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses” here we see he uses medical terms to describe the state of the body of his brother instead of using distinctive characteristics, the reason behind this maybe that the poet was in denial about the incident that had occurred, and he suppressed all the emotions that he felt.
The last two stanzas are set in the bedroom. Here we witness the poet coming to terms with the death of his younger brother, he uses personal pronouns like “him”. The last two stanzas create a soft and calm atmosphere, which was absent in the last five stanzas that displayed emotions of stress, tension and dispirit. When Heaney enters the room, he talks about snowdrops and candles, which represents spiritual symbols and gives the audience a calming effect.
The candles could also be used to give a subtle hint to mourning of the dead.
When he’s in the room the awkward and unusual feeling is gone, and the pet reminisces about the last time he saw his brother alive and well.
The metaphor used in the beginning of stanza seven, “wearing a poppy bruise” tells us that this temporary bruise took away something as delicate and meaningful as life, it reminds us of death and sad times. Furthermore, the poppy flower is used in funerals. The bruise which is placed on the left of his temple gives us an imagery about the bruise, and that it resembled a poppy.
By using the term “wearing” Heaney meant that it wasn’t permanent and that it could’ve been taken off, it was not permanent to his brother.
When the poet comes to describe where his brother was kept he says that the four-foot box in which he laid, seemed like a cot. This seems to imply that is brother looked at peace, like he was asleep. There we no “gaudy scars” on his body, nothing to signify any extreme form of damage.
“The bumper knocked him clear”, tells us about what happened to his brother, what kind of accident it was, hence there were lack of scars, the bumper hit the poet’s brother which killed him.
The last stanza consists of just one line which makes it stand out. This is an emotional stanza, for the family as well as the reader because we find out how old the brother was when the accident occurred.
The last line is spaced separately just like how Heaney’s younger brother was separated form his family.
“A four-foot box, a foot for every year”. The term “box” is used to give a less harsh and threatening feeling. We come to know that the brother was four years old, this gives us a chilling effect. And we realize how unforeseeable our future is and how everything is uncertain
The simplicity of the poem’s structure accentuates the emotions.
During the poem, you feel as though Heaney is grieving for his brother by suppressing his emotions, but as we near the end we see the love and affection that Heaney has for his younger brother, and how comes to terms with it.
When he’s being emotion-less in the start of the poem, we comprehend his heartbreak and suppression of emotions.
In conclusion this poem was compelling and emotional, it reflects the different feelings one has when going through the death of a beloved. It shows the reader how different people deal in different ways when it comes to death, and how they cope in their individual ways and come to terms with death.