In Seamus Heaney’s poem “Mid-Term Break” one is misled by the title which normally would bring to mind parties, frivolous activities, and a much needed break from classes.The writer immediately extinguishes these thoughts as the college sick bay is mentioned (Heaney, 1).Heaney does not use rhyming or specific sentence structure but still manages to draw a strong reaction message from his readers.The reader is shocked by the last line as it reveals the death of a child, the emotionless reaction to this death, and the injustice of a young life gone forever.
Although at first it seems as if the reader could perhaps be sick himself we quickly learn that the school bells sound to him as if they were “bells knelling” (2) which are often associated with a death toll or funeral procession.This immediately sets the tone of something far more tragic. The death of a young child has occurred, although it is not yet known the relationship between the reader and the deceased.
There is no mention of grieving or emotion but the tone is very somber as the reader is confronted with various family members and friends in many states of grieving.
As the eldest child the reader feels he is expected to behave or react a certain way.His family and friends are openly emotional and upset at the needless death of the young child.The reader puts on a brave face as he feels a duty to his family to remain strong.
It is tragically implied by this phrase “away at school” (12) that if he had been home the accident would have never occurred.The tremendous pressure of unspoken criticism has to be overwhelming and yet another reason to dampen the reader’s emotions although the grief he felt must have been great.