What is the line-by-line analysis of "Mid-Term Break" by Seamus Heaney?

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Heaney's poem is about the death of his younger brother but told from the perspective of the poet, who must return home for the funeral. The poem is written in such a way that the identity (and age) of the person killed is not made clear until the end of the poem.

The first stanza places the poet at college, waiting to be taken home, not by his parents but the "neighbors," the first sign that something unusual has happened. Of special interest is the second line, with its irregular stresses suggesting the sound of the bells marking time. It's clear that this waiting is both boring and a time when the poet must be thinking about what he is about to face.

The second stanza begins with the poet meeting his father crying and the sense (in the second line) that this is unusual, since "he had always taken funerals in his stride." This is a kind of inversion of roles and suggests that the poet, although just a college student, is expected to be emotionally strong. It is as if the crisis has elevated him to manhood, worthy of being addressed by "Big Jim Evans."

The detail about the baby laughing at the start of the third stanza is both incongruous and suggests something about the poet's family and his embarrassment at being greeted by the old men. On the one hand, he is embarrassed by his sudden standing as an adult, but on the other, it is possible that being the adult sibling of an infant is another cause of embarrassment.

This sense of embarrassment continues into the next stanza, where the adults offer empty condolences and he is officially identified by "whispers" that he is "the eldest / Away at school," fixing his position in the family and his social status (as a college student). It is awkward that these strangers know about his situation, but more awkward is this performance required of him of public grieving, represented by his mother holding his hand.

The emptiness of this occasion is suggested, in the next stanza, by his mother's "angry tearless sighs," a kind of emotional repression that leads us to wonder why the father would be crying over his dead child, but not the mother. The mother's emotional distance is reflected in the dull fact of the ambulance arriving ("at ten o'clock") with the corpse.

The next six lines represent a shift, both in time (it is "Next morning") and tone. The poet visits the corpse of his dead brother alone, the room "soothed" with candles and flowers. This sense of peace is perhaps at odds with the usual commotion of the house. Heaney concentrates on visual details: it is "the first time in six weeks" he has seen him; he is pale, with a red "poppy bruise" on his "left temple," otherwise apparently unharmed. He was hit by a car, we infer, since "the bumper knocked him clear." This concentration on visual detail stands in contrast to any sort of emotional response we might expect from the poet. In fact, the observations here have a detached, clinical quality that seem to require explanation.

The final line of the poem is devastating and brilliant. It begins with another statement of fact: the coffin is four feet long, but ends with an observation that crystalizes the conflicted feelings of the poet—"a foot for every year." The brother was only four when he died; his death in a car accident was meaningless and random; there is a suggestion that his parents, in continuing to have children, are unable to provide enough attention and that the lives of children are cheap. Like his mother's repressed anger, the final line simply relates the facts about the death of his brother, but in doing so he evokes a unspoken sense of rage and hopelessness.

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Could someone help me analyze the poem "Mid-Term Break" by Seamus Heaney?

This poem does not rely on much figurative language or other poetic devices to tell this story; instead, it relies on a relatively simple diction and stark auditory and visual images in order to convey the narrator's experience of having lost his little brother.

Auditory imagery—descriptions of sounds—seems to predominate. The auditory image of "bells knelling class to a close" might actually remind us of funeral bells ringing. It is also emotionally affecting to think of the narrator waiting for his ride home listening to bells ringing over and over again, thinking about his dead little brother, for whom such bells could be rung. The auditory image of his "father crying" is also arresting, especially when juxtaposed with the auditory image of the baby that "cooed and laughed," who obviously does not know what's going on. Next, we get the auditory images of strangers "Whisper[ing]" and the narrator's mother's "angry tearless sighs." For the first four and one-half stanzas, we experience the scenes via the sounds produced.

Next, visual imagery takes over as the narrator describes his brother's corpse, "stanched and bandaged." In his brother's bedroom, "Snowdrops / And candles soothed the bedside." His brother has a "poppy bruise," a description that presumably refers to the shape and color of the bruise the boy acquired when "the bumper knocked him clear." He's in a "four-foot box," an image repeated later, in the final line. This accumulation of visual images occurs in relative silence, a stark contrast to the noisiness of the first part of the poem. His grief is soundless, hushed, and the silence seems painful. Thus, Heaney uses auditory and visual imagery in order to convey the narrator's experience of his brother's funeral.

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Could someone help me analyze the poem "Mid-Term Break" by Seamus Heaney?

The speaker in the poem has been called home from his residential school due to the death of his younger brother - the reason for calling the poem "Mid-Term Break."

The poem is structured as a series of three lines with no rhyme scheme and no set rhythm pattern.

References to death begin with the school bells "knelling classes to a close" and continuing through the "snowdrops" outside the room when the speaker visits his brother's body in the coffin.

There seems to be a lack of emotion on the speaker's part - he notes that his father, who "had always taken funerals in his stride," is crying and comments on his mother's "angry tearless sighs," but the speaker's major emotion seems to be embarrassment with the talk of the neighbors. At the end of the poem, he is struck by the irony of his four-year-old brother being buried in "A four foot box, a foot for every year."

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