‘Mid-term Break’ by Seamus Heaney is about a boy who is away at school when his little brother gets hit by a car and dies. The poem talks you through him being brought home by his neighbours, not knowing what is going on and then put in this uncomfortable situation. This poem is good at describing a significant event, you are not told what is going on straight away so you keen on reading and it helps you see how Seamus felt when he didn’t know what was going on.
The title ‘Mid-term Break’ makes you think of good, happy times because a mid-term break is a holiday in the middle of a term. The feeling of the opening stanza is quite sad. Seamus chooses his words carefully to show this, he uses words like “knelling” to describe how the bells were ringing:
“I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close”
By using the work “knelling” we immediately know that something sad or bad has happened because the word “knelling” is a word that is used to describe how bells are rung on a sad occasion.
Seamus dose not tell you what is going on immediately to make the read want to read the whole poem to find out what is happening/ what has happened. Seamus gives the reader information in different stages in the poem to show how under informed he was at the time.
When Seamus got home he was confronted with his father crying on the porch, even though he had always “taken funerals in his stride”. This had come to a shock to him as he was not use to see his father cry. Big Jim Evans who by his names seems to be a big hard man was affected by this event. Seamus was embarrassed by the old men standing up to shake his and tell him they were sorry for his trouble. This was difficult for Seamus when he was a young boy because he was not used to the older men showing his lot of respect. The effect this has on him is that he seems very uncomfortable and embarrassed in this situation.
“When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand”
This shows that Seamus felt uncomfortable with all this attention from the older men.
The baby’s reaction seems quite harsh and hard hitting. This shows that the baby was excited to see Seamus and that he is unaware what has happened. He doesn’t know that his reaction is inappropriate. This has been placed at this point in the poem to show the innocence of youth and to compare it to how the father is reacting:
“The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed”
This shows that the innocent baby doesn’t understand that is was a sad occasion and that that reaction was inappropriate.
The mother’s reaction is quite unexpected as you would think that the mother would be crying showing a lot of emotion and the father to be taking it in his stride but not in this case as it is the other way round. This effects Seamus in such a way that he is confused why his father is crying and his mother is keeping all her emotions to her self. The effect this has on the reader is that it shows that his mother was being brave in front of Seamus to make him feel a little as ease with all that was going on. This was created by the reaction the mother was giving the strangers whispering about Seamus:
“Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand
In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.”
His mother was obviously up set by what had happened but was trying to be strong for Seamus.
Seamus was in a way avoiding acknowledging that his little brother was dead by saying:
“At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.”
He uses word choice to show this. By using “the corpse” in stead of his brother’s name he is avoiding believing that his little brother is dead. This seems quite nasty and impersonal but it helps Seamus avoid believing that he is dead.
The used of understatement in the poem has a great effect because it shows that he was really hurt by what happened and that many years latter it still effects him in such a way. The last line of the poem is hard hitting it makes it all real. He controls his emotion well and tries to come to senses about what happened. Seamus puts this event across extremely well as you really get to see how him and his family were feeling at the time.
In this poem, Seamus Heaney describes a tragic significant event in his past. By using various techniques he describes this event powerfully, allowing the reader to share his experience. I think that Seamus wrote this poem well and he definitely described how this event affected him well by using great word choice.