Mid Term Break

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Mid-Term Break The poem is about the death of Heaney's infant brother (Christopher) and how people (including himself) reacted to this. The poem's title suggests a holiday but this “break” does not happen for pleasant reasons. For most of the poem Heaney writes of people's unnatural reactions, but at the end he is able to grieve honestly. The boredom of waiting appears in the counting of bells but “knelling” suggests a funeral bell, rather than a bell for lessons. The modern reader may be struck by the neighbours' driving the young Seamus home - his parents may not have a car (quite usual then - Heaney was born in 1939, and is here at boarding school, so this is the 1950s) or, more likely, were too busy at home, and relied on their neighbours to help. The father, apparently always strong at other funerals, is distraught (very upset) by his child's death, while the mother is too angry to cry. “Big Jim” (apparently a family friend) makes an unfortunate pun - he means to speak of a metaphorical “blow”, of course. The young Seamus is made uneasy by the baby's happiness on seeing him, by hand shaking and euphemisms (evasions, like “Sorry for my trouble”), and by whispers about him. When late at night the child's body is returned Heaney sees this as “the corpse” (not a person). Back to top This contrasts wonderfully with the final section of the poem, where he is alone with his brother. Note the personal pronouns “him”, “his”, “he” - as opposed to “the corpse”. The calm mood is beautifully shown in the transferred epithet (“Snowdrops/And candles soothed the bedside” - literally they soothed the young Heaney). The flowers are a symbol in the poem, but also in reality for the family (a symbol of new life, after death). The bruise is seen as not really part of the boy - he is “wearing” it (a metaphor), as if it could come off. Heaney likens the bruise to the poppy, a
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