Mid term break by Seamus Heaney and The identification by Roger McGough Paper
In this assignment I will be comparing and contrasting two poems, ‘mid term break ‘ by Seamus Heaney and ‘the identification’ by Roger McGough. Seamus Heaney’s poem is auto-biographical and he writes about himself experiencing the reality of death via his younger brother. He describes desctrbes his family suffering from greif and struggling to accept the truth. In ‘the identification’ Roger to describe what seems to be a single Father identifying the body of a boy believed to be his son, Stephan who has been tragically killed by what is described as an ‘explosion’.
I will be comparing the similarities and differences of these two gloomy poems by using three topics to organize the comparing. The topics are Subject matter, use of language and poetic technique. Firstly I will be comparing the similarities within both poems. The subject matter between both poems are that they portray family grief for example in ‘mid-term break’ Seamus describes almost all his family members and neighbors showing signs of grief. His father is described a quite a tough man as it portrays him as always taking ‘funerals in his stride’.
At this point Seamus is unaware of why he has been pulled out of school but we can gather from the previous quote that he has added all the facts together to realize he has come home for a funeral. His mother is also caught grieving when he describes her holding his hand whilst coughing out ‘angry tearless sighs’. This quote suggests two things, firstly it uses the adjective ‘angry’ which suggests that the Mother may be blaming herself for the loss of her son but the reason for this we are not aware of.
Secondly it suggests that in her emotional state she has drained herself emotionally and physically of tears to cry. The family grief in ‘the identification’ is only portrayed by the father as he is the only person we hear of as it is written in first person, however we are aware his talking to whom is believed to be a pathologist because he asks a series of questions which appear to be answered. I believe that his type of grief is the worst as he has no one to grieve with and is suffering quietly and alone which I believe that in time will take could possibly lead to a decline in the mans health.
During the poem the father shows a type of grief through his disbelief that the boy is his son. This is shown by all the questions he asks and which he describes and removing ‘all trace of doubt’. In both poems struggling to accept the truth is a big factor as both Seamus (mid-term break) and Stephens Father (the identification) both portray struggling to accept the truth over the death of their loved one. Seamus shows this when he enters his brothers room for the first time after arriving home. The scene is described almost heavenly with ‘snowdrops and candles’ soothing his brother’s bedside.
A snow drop is a type of flower which blooms in spring and represents the passing of sorrow which explains why this specific flower is used on this occasion. Seamus describes his brother as almost asleep or ill as his face has become ‘paler’ and this shows us that Seamus wants to believe that his brother is only asleep and will awake at any moment however this is not going to happen. This is him struggling to accept the truth. He also cannot accept the fact that his brother will never live to celebrate another birthday when he write the very last line ‘A four foot box, a foot for every year’.
This is a very dramatic as he bluntly buts the facts together it also shows us a twist of fate that the box being the same length as the brothers age. In ‘the identification’ Stephens father is struggling to accept the truth and this is shown when he asks so many questions and by doing this he is hoping to achieve pulling ‘out every splinter of hope’. This shows him hoping to find some evidence that this body is not his son and not wanting to believe the facts he has already been portrayed. The last of the similarities in subject matter is confusion.
Seamus portrays confusion when he is brought home from school by his neighbors at an unusual time in the school term, he also not aware of the reason why he has been brought home until the last two stanzas of the poem. He also suffers from confusion when he over hears big Jim Evans saying ‘it was a hard blow’ I’m not certain but I am presuming a lot of questions flooded into his head when he over hears this for example ‘What was a hard blow? ‘ In ‘the identification’ Stephens father gets confused in the first stanza about the color of the boys hair which is black but his son’s, Stephens, was ‘fair’.
It becomes apparent after the father queries this fact it becomes apparent that the explosion that killed the boy would of synched the boys hair and caused it to turn black. He also becomes confused when cigarettes are put before him which were found within this boy’s pockets. This turns the father’s opinion against this boy being Stephen as he believes that he son would never ‘disobey’ him. But however he continues to examine the exhibits which force him to believe that this body was the body of his son.
The use of language between the two poems are also similar as the both have a non-rhyming structure and would both appeal to the same target audience which in this case would be ranging from mid-teens to adults and they would be able to cope with the high number of grief portrayed in these poems. Children under the age of 12-13 would not have the correct maturity level to read a poem like these and may become upset or overly concerned about the people within the poems. There are no similarities in the poetic techniques used in both poems.
The poems also differ in the three topics, subject matter, use of language and poetic technique. In mid-term break Seamus Heaney’s little brother we believe was killed in a Road Traffic Accident. We believe this because of what Big Jim Evans says in the second stanza ‘it was a hard blow’ and ‘the bumper knocked him clear’. We know that Seamus’s brother must have been killed by a motor vehicle as it suggests in the previous quote ‘the bumper knocked him clear’ as a bumper is a legal necessity to any car, bus and taxi.
In the identification we are led to believe that Stephen was killed in some type of explosion as we find out in the first stanza when he is asking the pathologist about the colour of the boys who is lying before him, hair colour as it does not match to his own sons but he is corrected as the explosion would’ve singed his hair black, ‘the explosion’. The way the mourners suffer in both poems also differs in both poems. In mid term break Seamus Heaney suffers alongside his family and neighbors until the last stanza when he finally discovers why he has returned home.
This scene is dramatic as it is emotional upsetting as is described well so that the reader can picture themselves in his situation. In ‘the identification’ Roger describes the father suffering alone as he has no other family member to consolidate with or mourn with. He his not completely on his own though as he has the pathologist with him but he however does not show any reassurance and only answers asked questions. The use of language within both poems also range as they both wrote there poems in a different narrative perspective. Mid-term break’ is written is first person narrative perspective (me, myself and I). This is used throughout the poem in order to create sympathy for Seamus.
This narrative perspective is used to its full extent in the second line of the fifth stanza ‘I saw him’ this short sentence really hits the reader as this is the first time Seamus actually sees his brother during the poem. This sentence also puts the reader in his position and prepares us for a description of what he is about to see. The identification’ was written is second person narrative so that you, the reader can see eye to eye with the father of Stephen. He does this so we can feel all the emotions Stephens father goes through. In the last line of the poem the readers becomes emotionally upset as we have already gained sympathy for the father therefore do not want him to go through this experience, like we wouldn’t want ourselves to go through it so we hope that he does not suffer the loss in the end, but unfortunately he does ‘That’s our Stephen’