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Seamus Heaney's Mid Term Break Essay

1190 words - 5 pages

Midterm Break Interp

“Mid-Term Break”

Seamus Heaney’s “Mid-Term Break” is an extremely tear-jerking poem. The story begins and ends in a very depressing manner, while in between we are treated to a very vivid and blunt view of life and how it can all come to an abrupt end. While “Mid-Term Break” does use death to grab at the reader’s heart strings, the story is most likely a description of life in Heaney’s native Northern Ireland, not Heaney’s life, but a very general view of life in Northern Ireland, how it can all come to a screeching halt at the hands of others and for no apparent reason. The warring in Northern Ireland has cost a lot of lives and due to the staggering amount of those who have passed for their cause, it is easy to see it in mere numbers and not recognize the level of loss. This serves as a sort of reminder that these are people, not statistics, and through its vivid details of the child’s death, the story gives us a clearer picture of the suffering suffered by families at the structure of the rules they are forced to live by as the struggle goes on around them.

As the story opens, we are given the mood, almost entirely, in the second line. It is important to notice how Heaney uses assonance and alliteration here to emphasize the funeral sound of the bells and the feeling of time dragging by. “I sat all morning . . . counting bells knelling classes to a close. At two o’clock our neighbors drove me home,” (Heaney 1-3) You get the sense of time slowly dragging by as the narrator sits in the hospital, waiting and waiting and waiting. This is due to the beginning of the stanza talking about how the narrator “sat all morning”and then it is two o’ clock in line three to show that hours have passed as he waited. It could easily be interpreted that this represents the waiting that whichever faction the author is sympathetic to in the conflict of Northern Ireland, is now going through as its members die and suffer. The waiting symbolizes the torture that those, still alive, are dealing with as their loved ones die.

The second stanza begins with the image of Heaney’s father “crying”. (Heaney 4) The father, “Big Jim Evans,”(Heaney 6) lends an image of powerful, strong man of few words, simply due to how he comments that the father “had always taken funerals in stride” (Heaney 5). This shows that Big Jim Evans is usually a source of strength to others when something such as this happens. The contrary picture of the father evokes powerful emotion in the reader. It could be interpreted that this is a representation of those leaders who lead the rebellion. Those who send others to the front, then when one of their own goes down to attack, pull back somewhat and deal with their loss, rather than continue to lend that same support to the cause. Heaney’s mother “coughing out angry tearless sighs,” (Heaney 13) speaks as a sort of anger in those around who feel this is more of a setback to the rebellion, rather than losses that...

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