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Analysis of Heaney's Poem "Mid-Term Break" Essay

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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 effectiv...


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...e has become more peaceful and relaxed overnight. In this half quite a bit of light/colour imagery has been used, for example, “snowdrops”, “candles”, and “paler”. Along with these words, the fact that he says “I went up” makes the atmosphere heavenly and pure. Although dead the boy is portrayed as angelic and perfect, as there are no scars.
“Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple”. This lays emphasis on how the boy’s death was unnatural and so unfair; as the “poppy” is associated with war, soldiers, young soldiers who were too young to die!
At the end of the poem the boy says “A four foot box, a foot for every year”. This is an excellent ending. It is shocking, as it is very blunt and straight to the point. The fact that it rhymes with the previous line means that it stays in the readers head, haunting them.


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Mid-term break by Seamus Heaney


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