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Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

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Louise Hamilton

on 6 January 2014

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Transcript of Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

By Seamus Heaney
To investigate the plot of the poem

Success Criteria
I can predict what might happen in a poem based on information I am given about it.
I can use clues in the poem to work out what happens in it.
Learning Intentions
Stanza Task
You will be given a small section of the poem.

It's your job to work out what you think the poem is about, what your section tells you about the plot of the poem, what you think happened before this moment and what you think will happen next.

You should also try to work out where in the poem your section comes from - the beginning, the middle or the end.
First Reading
Try to work out the mood of the poem as we read through it.

If you come across any words you do not know, write them in your jotter
At the beginning of the poem, the narrator seems to be bored, which is shown by his counting of the bells.

The bells are described as "knelling" which suggests a funeral bell. We don't pick up on this until later in the poem.

We are a little surprised that it is the boy's neighbors, not his parents, that take him home.
The title is 'Mid-term Break' which we associate with a holiday, but we learn that the 'holiday' the boy takes in this poem is not for a pleasant reason.
Mid-term Break
We are going to be studying a poem called ‘Mid-term Break.’

What is a mid-term break?
What sort of feelings do you normally get when you are thinking about mid term break (or ‘half-term’)?
Do you think of this as a holiday?
What do you normally like to do?
What do you think the poem will be about?
What’s in a name?
After first reading
1. Who is the main character in the poem? What do we learn about him?
2. What other characters are in the poem?
3. What happens in the poem?
4. What poetic techniques did you notice?
Stanza One
I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close,
At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.
Stanza Two
In the porch I met my father crying -
He had always taken funerals in his stride -
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.
We learn that the boy's father is very upset.

He is usually very strong at funerals, so something is different about this one.

A family friend mentions how horrible it is, so we wonder what has actually happened.
Stanza Three
The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand
The baby's reaction is very different from everyone else - he seems happy.

The boy is embarrassed by this and by the older men shaking his hand.

The enjambment helps show this - it's like he doesn't want to pause for a breath
Stanza Four
And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand
We find out the narrator is the oldest child and that he was away - perhaps he felt guilty?

His mother needs support to get through this.
Stanza Five
In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by nurses.
It is now much later, which shows how the day is dragging in for the narrator.

The word choice of "corpse" is very important - the narrator does not see this body as a person anymore.
Stanza Six
Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,
The narrator is finally brave enough to see his brother.

He has not seen him for a while, maybe he feels guilty?
Stanza Seven
Wearing a poppy bruise on the left temple,
He lay in the four-foot box as in a cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.
He described the bruise as a poppy, which usually represents Remembrance.

The size of the box gives us a clue that the boy is young.

We learn the boy was knocked over by a car.
Stanza Eight
A four foot box, a foot for every year.
It is this short line that tells is the narrator's brother was only 4 years old, which is shocking and extremely sad for the reader.
Full transcript