What is ironic about the title of the poem "Mid-Term Break"?

The title "Mid-Term Break" is ironic because the break is not the vacation one associates with the term. Rather, it depicts the terrible break in the life of the college student as he comes home for the funeral of his four-year-old brother.

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In "Mid-Term Break," an eldest brother comes home from college to attend the funeral of his younger brother. Normally, the phrase midterm break refers to a holiday or vacation that gives students a pause or well-needed breather from their studies in the middle of a semester. In this case, the break is the result of a tragic occurrence. The title is ironic because "mid-term break" means the opposite of what the words usually mean.

The break is far more serious than a short period of rest mid semester. The family is broken by the death of the innocent child. The older brother comes home to see his father "crying," even though normally his father takes "funerals in his stride." His mother, too, is very much broken up by this death. Her pain is beyond tears and demonstrated through "tearless sighs."

This is a family that may have endured a break with their past lives that will scar them forever. It is the break between life and death. This is the kind of break that a student never wants to be called away from school to participate in.

We feel for the senselessness of this death. We learn that the boy was killed by being run over by a car, as the "bumper knocked him clear." It is only at the very end of the poem that we find out the little boy was only four years old.

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