Various Expressions of Grief
Heaney’s lyric poem “Mid- Term Break” is filled with various expressions of emotions caused by the death of a loved one. Robert Stecker in, “Expressiveness and Expression in Music and Poetry” stated that, “It is also virtually impossible to read a lyric poem without taking it to express and attitude toward (a possibly fictional) someone or some (possibly fictional) state of affairs.” (89). In the case of this lyric, it is the reactions of the loved ones left behind after the unexpected death of a four year old little boy that are expressed in this poem. In the book, Modern Poetry and Ethnography Heuston states, “In his Nobel lecture, Heaney says what he values most in poetry is, “it’s truth to life in every sense of that phrase…” (124). This theme and phrase fits perfectly with this poem because death is a truth to life. Furthermore, there is an expected reaction to death that includes extreme displays of sadness and grief, which is not consistently true. In this poem the readers are presented with various reactions to death, some that meet the expectation of an extensive outward expression of their extreme sadness during this time, and others that do not. Along with how some characters follow the gender stereotypes of how they are supposed to express emotion. These extreme expressions of emotions that are expected can include anything from simple tears to sobbing.
In this poem, “Mid-Term Break”, the mother is the one who closely follows the expectation of expressing these extreme emotions of sadness and grief when dealing with the death of her child. The speaker tells the audience that , “… as my mother held my hand / In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.” (12-13). In this line of the poem the mother gives the exact expression of emotion that is expected by a mother who just lost a child especially under the traumatic circumstances of a car accident. The speaker tells the audience that the mother has become upset to the point that she is now unable to form tears in her eyes. The only other way she has to express her extreme emotions is by “coughing out angry tearless sighs.” (13). Due to the way the poet chose to phrase the wording in this quote allows the audience to get a vivid visualization of how the mother feels. Many readers who have similarly lost someone unexpectedly can potentially relate to the exact feelings and emotions of the mother.
The father also follows this expectation, but not in the same extremes as the mother. The speaker says, “In the porch I met my father crying-” (4). Stereotypically men are not expected to cry or show outward emotions of sadness; however, this seems to change when it comes to grieving especially when a young child is involved. Men often times feel this way due to how they are raised because their fathers are well known for telling their sons that men do not cry. The speaker also expresses this by saying, “He had always taken funerals in his stride-” (5). This...