Seamus Heaney's Mid-Term Break

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“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...

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...ust have felt. There is an element of shock for the reader reading it for the first time also, when they discover who has died, and that he was a mere four years old. A description of an innocent, as children are generally portrayed as innocent and with a sense of blind faith. The death could either be that of a bystander who happened to be caught in crossfire or the infamous bombs that are used in the Northern Ireland conflict, but more than likely, its meaning to show that every casualty brings about a further setback to the conflict, and the belief is the true casualty. The death is what is in that box, and despite how long the conflict has raged, it is shown here as a child, to perhaps articulate that the belief of that faction is still in its early stages and that if more do not take up the cause, the belief will die along with those on the battlefield.

To call “Mid-Term Break” a story of the death of a four year old is selling short the conflict presently going on in Heaney’s Northern Ireland. Though, he may not reside there now, its far reaching implications on those who once resided there are unimaginable. A very sad piece about a very controversial and heated conflict.
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