How does the child's death occur in "Mid-Term Break"?

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The fourth grade boy died as a result of being hit by a car.

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Seamus Heaney's poem, "Mid-Term Break," describes a family's response to the death of a four year old child. The poem is narrated by the child's elder brother, who at the beginning of the poem is collected from college by his neighbors.

In the fifth stanza, the dead boy is brought home by the ambulance. The body of the boy is described as "stanched and bandaged," implying that the injuries sustained by the boy were very serious. The elder brother notes that the ambulance arrived at "ten o'clock." In the first stanza he notes that his neighbors collected him from college at "two o'clock." From these times, we can infer that the boy has likely been receiving treatment for at least eight hours, again emphasizing the serious nature of the injuries he received.

In the sixth and seventh stanzas, the elder brother sees the boy laid out on his bed, "Paler now, / Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple." From this description one might infer that the boy died from a severe blow to the head. At the end of the seventh stanza, we are told for the first time the cause of the boy's death. The elder brother notes that there are no scars visible on the boy's face, and recalls that "the bumper knocked him clear."

A "bumper" is a bar running across the front of a vehicle, designed to minimize the damage to the front of a vehicle in the event of a collision. The line, "the bumper knocked him clear," indicates that the boy was hit and killed by a vehicle. The fact that the bumper knocked the boy "clear" suggests that the vehicle was travelling at speed, and that the collision with the boy was particularly forceful. The previous indication that the boy has received at least eight hours of treatment suggests that the boy's death was not instant, but long and possibly quite painful.

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