‘Mid-Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Second Opinion’ by Douglas Dunn
‘Mid-Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Second Opinion’ by Douglas Dunn

‘Mid-Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Second Opinion’ by Douglas Dunn

Available Only on StudyHippo
Topics:
  • Pages: 5 (2361 words)
  • Published: October 17, 2017
Text preview

‘Mid-Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney is a poem about the tragic loss of a young boy. Heaney wrote it as a result of his own infant brother’s (Christopher) death. Its content is dramatic and heart rendering in describing the feelings, emotions and reactions of Heaney himself, his relations and others post the tragic event. ‘Second Opinion’ by Douglas Dunn is another personal attempt, which is taken from Dunn’s award winning collection of poems called ‘Elegies’.

Its content is again dramatic with an element of foreboding and portrays a husband’s response and anger to the news that his wife has been diagnosed with cancer.This mirrors Dunn’s real life tragedy, as his wife died from cancer in August 1981. Mid-Term Break The title, ‘Mid-Term Break’, is one of certain positive connotations, such as holidays and happiness. This certainly is incongruent to the content of the poem, as this “break” does not happen for pleasant reasons.

The poem begins with the first person pronoun “I”. Clearly, this shows the narrative is written in the first person, giving a personal and intimate edge to the composition and shows the reader that Heaney is the narrator.An impression of inactivity, waiting and boredom is conveyed as the young Heaney “sat all morning”. The noun “morning” could be interpreted as the verb “mourning” to mean an action of grief, thus linking with the following events.

The place where Heaney waits~ “the college sick bay” has overtones of illness and disease, and seems to pass the time by “counting bells knelling classes to a close”. Heaney u

...

ses assonance~ “knelling” to create a sombre atmosphere as knelling is the sound of a bell ringing at a funeral mass. Throughout the poem, Heaney uses words with connotations of certain colours to create atmosphere and feeling.It may strike younger readers as peculiar that the young Seamus’ neighbours drove him home, but this can be explained easily~ during the period that the poem takes place (1950’s), few families possessed a car. The time that Heaney was picked up is specified exactly as “two o’clock”. This is part of the lexical set of time that is present throughout, e.

g. “morning”, “ten o’clock”, “six weeks”. As well as having the effect that the time goes slowly, it calls to mind the notion that Heaney deliberately conveys harsh, precise facts with no warmth, which mirrors the mood of the poem.The second stanza sees the arrival of Heaney at his family home. Firstly, “in the porch” he meets his “father crying”. Again the use of assonance~ “crying”, provides a distressing image of sadness and grief, emphasised by the following statement that he usually takes “funerals in his stride”.

By this, Heaney shows the reader that the ordeal has had an immense impact on his father’s normally strong demeanour. The reactions of others; strangers as well as family members, play an important role in the narrative.In stanza two, a man, namely “Big Jim Evans”, makes an unfortunate pun about it being a “hard blow”, obviously meaning it be a metaphorical “blow”, but unwittingly used by Big Jim forgetting or unknowing that a blow had killed th

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay
View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

child. Heaney describes an uncomfortable atmosphere in stanza three when “old men” shake his hand. As this is a mature gesture, Heaney remarks that he felt “embarrassed”, the only example of Heaney’s emotion in the narrative. Furthermore, the same men apologise for the incident in stanza four~ “sorry for my trouble”.

The neutrality of this is striking and also, it is laid out in the poem as direct speech, as if Heaney is mocking their traditional euphemisms regarding his brother’s death. Their apologies are of no worth to the grieving family. The idea of traditions and their worth is a very important one in the poem. Once again, Heaney uses assonance in stanzas four and five to describe atmosphere. “Whispers” are used to create an evasive, uncomfortable atmosphere that continues from stanza three.

The examples of assonance in stanza five are “coughed” and “sighs”.Heaney uses these when describing his mother’s reaction~ “coughed out angry tearless sighs”. As well as continuing with his lexical set of sound, he continues with his lexical set of negative language in this powerful phrase~ “angry tearless”. Literally it means his mother was too angry to cry, which implies that she is suffering from guilt.

The facts of the ordeal return as we read~ “at ten o’clock the ambulance arrived”. Again, he uses the precise time to convey the harsh reality of the experience. He refers to his dead brother as the “corpse”, which implies an attitude of disbelief and denial.It seems as if he does not believe (or want to believe) that under the bandages is not his brother but a corpse, quite a usual reaction to the death of a loved one.

In stanza six, Heaney continues with the earlier idea of traditions and their worthlessness. The reader is told that “snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside” which has a spiritual aura of peace and tranquillity. The noun “bedside” is significant as it shows the reader that Heaney feels that these traditions/rituals have no effect on his dead brother. Their effect only soothes those who stand by the bedside.

It is striking that Heaney used snowdrops and candles as these mirror the life span of his brother~ his brother’s life ended quickly, just like snowdrops and candles do. The white innocence and purity contrasts with the red poppy bruise in the seventh stanza. The poppy bears significance as it is the flower of pain relief~ opiates are derived from poppies, and it is also the flower of remembrance~ poppies are worn as a remembrance to war victims. Heaney’s attitude of denial arises once more as his brother is said to be “wearing” the bruise (a metaphor), as if it can be removed at any time.Apart from the bruise there are no overt injuries~ “no gaudy scars”, therefore providing Heaney little evidence that his brother is dead.

The last stanza is very unlike the other stanzas. Firstly, it does not follow the conventional structure of the poem as all other stanza are made up of three lines that flow into each other; the last line is only one line in length. It is distinguished perhaps to stand

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay