“Mid Term Break” by “Seamus Heaney” and “Out, Out” by “Robert Frost” Essay
I have decided to look at the poems “Mid Term Break” by “Seamus Heaney” and “Out, Out” by “Robert Frost”. Both of the poems are about the tragic death of a young boy. However, they are written in different ways and both have conflicting viewpoints. “Mid Term Break” is an autobiographical, a personal account of the death of Heany’s younger brother in Derry. While “Out, Out” is set in the idyllic countryside of Vermont, by one of America’s most famous poets. The poem also has a neutral, objective point of view.
Robert Frost’s life was filled with tragedy, which may be indicative of his views about death in the poem, which are that Death will happen and we have to get over that fact and continue on our lives. The titles of both poems,”Mid Term Break” and”Out, Out” are meaningful and essential to the poems. “Mid Term Break” is ironic, as boys at boarding school did not usually get a Mid-tem break, yet Heaney had an unwelcome one. Holidays usually give feelings of happiness but this time it brought only sadness “In the porch I met my father crying”.
Out, Out” was taken from Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. It portrays Frost’s outlook on life and death, which is fragile and easily extinguished. In “Mid Term Break” there is a continuous three-line stanza layout apart from 1 single line at the end. The poem lacks detail about the accident and instead in focuses on the emotions of the people in the poem. The reader only learns who has died towards the end of the poem. In “Out, Out” has blank verses, it has no rhyme scheme or stanzas, instead it had a steady flow of words like a conversation.
This reiterates Frost’s view of death, which is that life will go on no matter what has happened. Robert Frost’s insensitive viewpoint antagonizes the reader into feeling strong emotions for the boy. Although the two poems are writing differently they do have similarities, as both of them have shocking last line. “Mid Term Breaks” final line “A four foot box, a foot for every year” stands alone from the rest of the poem, it stuns the reader with the age of Heaney’s brother. While in “Out, Out” the last lines is “And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs”.
This line is hard for the reader to comprehend the attitude of those who witnessed the accident, which is that we have to accept that death will happen and we should continue on living our own lives, they show no compassion or sorrow for the child who has died they are only worried about themselves. It also causes great shock to the reader, we except that there would be a lot of sadness and mourning because of the death but there is none, they have all accepted that the child has died and are carrying on like nothing major has happened.
In “Mid-Term Break” there is a different tone for almost each different stanza. In stanza 1 there is almost a warning tone “At two o’clock out neighbours drove me home” You know something has happened because he is going home early and it is his neighbours driving him home not his parents. In stanza 2 there is a sense of confusion “In the porch I met my father crying” We are confused, as we do not know why his father is crying. In stanza 3 there is a sense of innocence, there is a contrast to the previous stanza “The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram.
It is in contrast as the father is crying in the previous stanza while the baby is laughing in this stanza. The baby has a sense of innocence, as it does not know what has happened, it does not understand why ever one is sad and so continuous as if nothing has happened. Enjambment is used between stanzas 3 and 4 so they have the same tone, which is innocence ” My mother held my hand”, Heaney is still young and he’s not quite sure what is happening. In Stanza 5 the family has still not accepted this death, “In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs” it has not sunk in yet.
In stanza 6 and 7 we will see that they both share the realization of what has happened. “I saw him, For the first time in six weeks, Paler now,” This is the first time in the poem that Heaney refers to the character as him, this shows that we are finally getting to find out what has happened. Then in stanza 7 the line “wearing a poppy bruise on the left temple” finally makes us realize what has happened, that someone has died. In the line following that give us a sense of happiness ” he lay in the four foot box as in a cot” It is almost as if the child is sleeping in his cot but we know the truth.
It makes us realize what has happened to the baby but in a less painful way. In the poem “Out, Out” there is a unfeeling and insensitive tone “and that ended it” it shows little compassion. It is also unsympathetic, almost as if Frost thought it was the child fault, that he should of been more careful instead of feeling sorry for the boy. There is also guilt and regret in places ” call it a day, I wish they might have said” He wished someone would of told him to come inside and then he would still be aright.
The poem had a sense of coldness and callous about it ” And since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs” It was almost as if they didn’t care as long as they were alright and that there was no reason for time to stop just because someone had died. Throughout the poem, the tone is conversational. There is a lot of direct speech in “Out, Out” that we usually don’t see that often in poems ” Don’t let him cut my hand off The doctor when he comes. Don’t let him, sister” This gives a more personal feel to the poem and it lets us see the boy’s real emotions.
Mid Term break” and “Out. Out” have very different tones throughout the poems. “Mid Term Break has a very sorrowful tone and there is a lot of innocence in the poem ” The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram” while in “Out, Out” there is no sorrow, only acceptance “And they, since they Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs” No compassion for the one who has died. Although “Mid Term Break” and ” Out, Out” do share a sense of regret in certain places in both poems.
In “Mid Term Break” the line “For the first time in six weeks” shows how little time Heany spend with his bother and that he wishes he could of spend more time with him. In “Out, Out” the line “Call it a day, I wish they might have said” This shows that if someone only would tell him that that was enough for today he would still be alive. In the poem “Mid Term Break” smilies are used to help produce an image of innocent “he lay in the four foot box as in a cot”. In stanza 6 line 2 “And the candles soothed the bedside” This line personifies hope for the reader.
In stanza 7 line 2 “wearing a poppy bruise on the left temple” Heaney uses a metaphor, it is almost as if the he could take the bruise off, like the baby was only wearing it, if he took off the bruise the baby would be aright again. The language in the poem set the scene creating a peaceful and idyllic setting, natural beauty and tranquility. However, onomatopoeia (noise) and personification (saws aggressive behaviour) are used to depict the threatening presence of the saw as if it had a mind of its own. (Symbolizing death perhaps).
The noise is almost like a warning to the reader that something is about to happen, all is not perfect here. There is contrast between the beauty of nature and the unnatural behaviour of the saw. There is only one real sense of the feeling in the poem and that is a sense that the accident could have been prevented. This hint of regret is the only sign of remorse in the poem. The direct speech encourages the reader to feel sympathy for the boy. The phrase “life from spilling” is an ambiguous phrase as if to stop himself from dieing, but also hinting that the accident may be the boy’s own fault.
The words spilling alluding to a careless accident. The two poems “Mid Term Break” and “Out, Out” are trying to say two very different things. In “Mid Term Break” Heaney was trying to say that when someone dies everything changes, “In the porch I net my father crying” or “By old men standing up to shake my hand” These things normally never happen. He never sees his dad crying or men never stand up and shake his hand but since someone has died things are starting to change. The poem makes us feel sorry for the boy and his family because of what they have went through and sympathy because it was someone so young who died.
While in “Out, Out” it is quite the opposite as Frost believes when someone dies that the world will go on like nothing has happened. “And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs. ” There is no sympathy or compassion in “Out, Out” for death, it just happens and we have to get on with life and accept it. The poem almost gives us the impression that death is nothing, it will always happen and there is no point mourning over someone who has died. The poem is a cold and insensitive outlook on death.
Out of the two poems I felt that “Mid Term Break” affected me more. I thought it made us feel heartbroken for Heaney and his family. The words and phrases used throughout the poem leave us feeling compassion towards Heaney but I think that it was the last line which made the poem so unique, “A four foot box, a foot for every year,” the realisation that the person who has died was only a child, a four-year-old child has a huge impact. The line leaves us stunned and shocked. It is a very effective last line that adds to the brilliant use of structure throughout the poem.
Although “Out, Out” did affect me in some aspects. The great uses of phrases are used in exactly the right places and make the poem very effective. My favourite line in the poem is ” Then the boy saw all Since he was old enough to know, big boy Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart He saw all spoiled. ” This line makes us feel so sympathetic towards the boy as he is only a child but he is doing a man’s work. If the child was living his life as child instead of out working like a man he would still be alive and I think that is what makes this poem so effective.