Mid-term Break at first glance, seems to be a fairly simple, straight forward poem, in the way that (at first) it seems to lack emotion and has a child-like quality and feel; but as you read on, you notice various elements and techniques that Heaney has subtly incorporated into the poem to make you think otherwise. In fact, this poem is very cleverly written and is extremely emotional. Heaney uses a range of really effective techniques. Because there is no rhyme and lack of rhythm the poem flows more and seems more natural, enjambment also makes the poem flow easily between lines and stanzas. Onomatopoeia are used to express emotion during the poem; such as “cooed,” “whispers,” “coughed,” and “knocked”. The use of these words seems to give the poem a definite and discrete sound.
The theme and tone throughout “Mid-term Break” being expressed in a simplistic manner, (yet pays a lot of attention to detail) reflects the boy’s voice. The title plays a part in revealing the main theme; death. At first the reader thinks the title “mid-term break” is deliberately misleading for affect, but as you look at it more it has another meaning. “Mid-term”, meaning in the middle. So the title means that the boy’s life has been broken, he has died in the middle of his life. He has died too young.
Mid-term Break opens with a boy “Sitting the college sick bay”; the reader assumes that the boy speaking is ill, “Counting knelling classes to a close”. Immediately the theme of death in introduced to us, with a knell being a funeral bell, this begins to give the poem a sombre tone, as the reader can hear the bell in their head. It is also like the “classes to a close” is the boy’s life coming to en end. The first stanza in particularly effective because the title is deliberately misleading; being ambiguous, the title paints a picture in the reader’s head that “Mid-term Break” is about a happy time, the title implies that the poem may be about a school holiday or half-term. The ambiguity makes the opening more dramatic as it is much unexpected that the poem is about or is connected to death.
After arriving home, the boy is met by his father whom is crying in the porch. Here you notice that the stereotypical roles of the parents have been swapped around, with the father crying, and the mother “coughing out tearless angry sighs”. This really emphasizes the traumatising experience that this family are going through. It illustrates how painful a death of a loved one is for anyone.
“My mother held my hand in hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs”. This quote is by far the most effective and poignant in the poem. The mother is clinging on to the boy’s hand; it is almost like she feels if she doesn’t cling on to him she will loose him too....