An Essay on the Poems “Out, Out” and “Mid -Term Break”
In this essay I will be describing the techniques used in the poems “Out, Out” by Robert Frost and “Mid – Term Break” by Seamus Heaney. Both poems are deal with the same subject matter, the death of a young person but in very different styles. The poem “Out, Out” describes a boy who is “Doing a man’s work” for his family by chopping wood. His sister calls “Supper” which distracts the boy and he saws off most of his hand. He is then taken to hospital to have his hand amputated but dies during the operation. The title “Out, Out” is taken from the play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare.
The line is “Out, Out brief candle. ” This is used at the death of Macbeth’s wife. This refers to how fragile life is. The poem narrates the events. It reads like a story, but is set out in stanza’s which is a poetic format. As the poem gets further towards the death of the child the sentences are visibly shorter. This technique continues that the death is closer as if it seems that the poem is speeding up. There is repetition in the words “Snarled, Rattled” as used to describe the saw. This personification, highlights that there is a threat and helps to build tension as we move towards the “event”.
Snarled, rattled” are onomatopoeic and liken the saw to dangerous animals. Lines three to six change the atmosphere and provide a contrast, as a sort of relief to the horror of the poem. This is effective because it creates a false illusion that everything is fine and nothing will go wrong. We are warned of the harsh reality of the content when the words “Snarled, Rattled” are repeated. “Day was all but done/ Call it a day. ” This, for me, creates a feeling of pathos; we feel sad for the boy because his family, who should be the closest people to him and so do not respond to how we imagine they would.
They return to their usual routine after the sun has set and do not seem to care because they are not the ones dead, this makes us pity the boy more. The family does not appear to know how to be able to mourn the boy’s death. “By giving him the half hour. ” The technique is to create a feeling of regret. If the sister had only called “supper” half an hour later the boy would still be alive. The regret described in these lines gives the effect of an unfortunate event which makes the poem more depressing.
Although the boy was in control of the saw and could be seen as responsible for his own death. Robert Frost by describing the saw as a vicious animal, in contrast to the vulnerable boy and his “child’s heart” creates and effect so the reader is in no doubt over who and what to blame for his death. Robert Frost gives the role of the villain to the saw because they are known to be a dangerous tool if in the wrong hands. Using a saw is a good idea because everyone knows what a saw is so it could be real. Personification is again used as his sister “Stood beside them”.
This is used to assign fault to the saw and so divert it from the boy and shows that the saw is considered an equal to the boy. The poem does not use gruesome terms or create a visual idea of goriness but employs metaphors. “Life from spilling” Is quite innocent sounding to convey the horror it tells the reader that the child’s blood was flowing out of his hand which, in a “polite” way. This acts as a clue, to the fact that the situation is horrifying. It shows that the boys fragility. “He saw all spoiled” tells us that the boy can feel his life is over.
His existence is ruined as there is nothing to live for. The poem starts off slowly with longer sentences but when we get closer to the accident at the hospital the sentences get shorter. The “so. ” Is placed near the end of the poem as a dramatic pause. This creates tension and makes the suspense stronger. The two letter sentence breaks the pattern of the sentence structure making it stand out. “He puffed his lips out with his breath” shows the boy is so weak that the only movement to carry out is a simple breathe, something we all learn how to do from the moment we are born.
All the energy in the boys body is used for him to breathe. A clue that the boy is about to die. As we approach the child’s death there are still no gruesome descriptions. Instead metaphors are used to show the boys passing away. The actions and emotions of the onlookers are uncomplicated and so have greater impact’s such as the doctor who “at his pulse took fright”. The metaphor “Dark of ether” gives a mystical quality as it is the gas which makes you unconscious which is the nearest state to death.
The effect of the short sentences creates an illusion that the tempo of the poem is getting quicker because death is imminent. The pattern in which the poem ends differs to the rest of “Out, Out” as it becomes irregular. The writer does this to depict uncertainty around the boy’s decease. “No more to build on there. ” This sentence is placed after the boy’s death to confirm that all of his hopes and dreams are wasted. The poem “Mid – term Break” by Seamus Heaney is about someone’s younger brother, who was hit by a car and has died.
We find out at the end of the poem, that the boy was four years old. The majority of the poem is about the family mourning. “Mid – term Break” is a clever title, used because a term is a period in school in which you have a holiday at the end. There is no such school holiday as “Mid – term Break” and so illustrates that the break should not have occurred. It also highlights the power of death which does not wait for rules such as “term times”. The first stanza is telling us that the boy is away from home, isolated, upset and waiting.
It is made up of short sentences to build up tension and create shock. The poem is told in first person. This gives the effect that the emotions come straight from the boy to the reader. We respond directly to the boy, which provokes greater sympathy in us when his brother dies. By telling us his emotions “I was embarrassed” we have a better idea of the atmosphere around him. We can tell by the tone in which brother introduces his family, that he is not content with the current situation. Most people have lost someone from their family, so can sympathise with him.
On the other hand we don’t know who the family member is until the end, so we are not sure if there are any similarities to his brother. The poem refers to the boy’s family as emotionally strong but they seem to be grieving, which indicates something bad has happened. The father shows his sorrow by crying which, as it explains in the poem, is uncommon. “He had always taken funerals in his stride. ” This shows us that the father, the man of the house, is destroyed with remorse. The mother deals with the pain of the death by holding her son’s hand but she is so upset she cannot cry; Coughed out angry tearless sighs. ”
The boy comforts her. This could be a clue to who died. The closest thing to the son who has died is his brother. By using the word “corpse” in the poem we do not think of a young child knocked down by a car so when we find the impact is more disturbing. The use of the word “corpse” in the place of a name suggests the absence left in the place of the young life making it sound cold and clinical. “Snow drops/ And candles. ” These are signs of peace and innocence building our feeling of sorrow for whoever has died. “Poppy bruise” has two meanings.
One is that poppy’s are a symbol for remembrance. The other is that it describes the blood red mark, a harsh image which contrasts to the soft “snowdrops” in the previous stanza, left on the boy from where the car hit him. “He lay in a four foot box as his cot” and should be “laughing” and “rocking” like the baby in his pram. He sees his brother as sleeping. This gives the suggestion that the “corpse” is very young. “The baby cooed” It’s a relief that it is not the baby but at the same time we do not find out who it is. “A four foot box, a foot for every year. ”
This line stands out because it is at the very end and has it’s own stanza. It is in a line on it’s own and the other stanza’s are in lines of three. Alliteration is used in this sentence to make the shock more effective. The impact of this line is immense because although there were hints in the poem that the boy was young; “As in his cot. ” We do not expect this because cots are warm and are associated with innocent children, not death. This brings emotion into the poem. The two poems are similar, in that they deal with the same thing; the death of a young boy which is both accidental and tragic.
Neither of them are gory so the optic perspectives of the poems are left to the readers imagination. They describe the emotion that the victim, or the family went through. The poets often use similar techniques, sentence structure, punctuation, use of pathos and both use metaphors in place of gruesome detail. Both poems touch upon grief. “Out, Out” is one stanza made up of short sentences for impact, whereas “Mid – term Break” has seven stanza’s and longer sentences to ‘prolong the agony’ and reflect the families grief.
In “Out, Out” we do not see the family mourn for the young boy. In “Mid – term Break” the boys absence is depicted in the families sorrow. “Out, Out” is narrated in third person and “Mid – term Break” is written in first person. The scene is described in “Out, Out” but only facts are mentioned in “Mid – term Break”. We know who dies straight away in “Out, Out” but we have to wait until the end to find out who dies in “Mid – term Break”.
Robert Frost starts off his poem frantically but “Mid – term Break” had a very sorrowful beginning. Out, Out” is very story we can also blame the saw for the boys death but “Mid – term Break” focuses on the victim’s family who we do not but sympathise with. Out of the two poems I preferred “Mid – term Break” because I enjoyed the suspense and tension before finding out who died. I understood it more than the other poem because unlike “Out, Out” you were not side-tracked. It was a lot more emotional which made me pity the family more. We know the boy who dies in “Out, out” but not in “Mid – term break” which adds an element of mystery to the poem.
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