The subject of the Poem „Midterm Break” by Seamus Heaney is the death of Heaney’s younger Brother Christopher, who was killed in a car accident. In a way, this poem is a manner, in which Heaney deals with this childhood trauma. This poem has a lot of emotional power but touches the reader in a different way that one might expect. Through various contrasts and skillful use of language, Heaney creates a unique tone to process this traumatic experience.
Different to what one might expect from someone remembering the death of a close relative, Heaney’s emotional response is muted, as he focuses more on reactions of family and on observed details to convey shocking content. This poem can be described as an Elegy, as it remembers a dead person, yet contains a sense of clarity and realism, that is not typical to that of an Elegy.
The poem is written in the perspective of a small child, and we can assume that the “I” in verse 1 represents Heaney as a child because of this autobiographical content. Until the last verse, the speaker does not seem to understand the gravity of the situation. This detachment, together with contrasting the young boy’s innocence with the harsh reality of life is the main theme in this poem.
The title “Mid-Term Break” already signalizes to the reader that this is not going to be a normal school poem, as holidays were usually between the school terms. This dark foreboding of an event, that will probably shock all readers, is further enhanced by the first stanza, especially “bells knelling”. This interesting manipulation of the sound of the school bells, creates a connotation to funeral bells. The verse “Counting bells knelling classes to a close” uses the internal rhyme of “bell” and “knell” and the alliteration of “c” and “l” to signal the idea of finality and time seeming to slow down, as Heaney and the readers wait for further information on what happened. Contrasting to the anxiety the reader feels as he reads this, Heaney...