Compare the poems ‘Out-Out’ and ‘Mid-Term Break’

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Out-Out is the story of a young boy working on a Timber yard who has an accident and dies. The poem describes this as an almost everyday occurrence, and portrays the reactions of the family around him; that is that they carry on as if nothing has happened. Mid-Term Break approaches death from the other angle. An adolescent boys younger brother dies in a car accident, and on arriving home he feels he is being viewed in disdain for not being there to protect his sibling. This poem portrays the feeling of the older brother and his emotions before and after the accident.

Mid-Term Break’ by the poet Seamus Heaney is about a personal experience that he when he was younger encountered. It deals with the issues of life and death in a family and also how different people cope. The title at first suggests that the poem is going to be about a holiday, but as you get into the poem further, you realise that the title has a far deeper and darker meaning… In the first stanza, we learn that Seamus Heaney is in a college sick bay waiting to be picked up. You get suspicious when he is being picked up his neighbour, which could indicate that something serious has happened.

Time is passing slowly, and Heaney uses alliteration to show this. “Counting bells knelling classes to a close. ” This also makes the reader tense and already so early in the poem, we sense that something is wrong due to the poets word choice of ‘knelling’. Knelling is when a church bell rings to signify a funeral. The clues become more apparent as you move through the stanzas, and are very effective in arousing your suspicions.

When Seamus arrives home, he is greeted by his father crying on the porch. A stereotypical male would usually hold back his feelings and Heaney uses parenthesis to show this. 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. ” Obviously something had caused him great pain, and parenthesis is effective in showing that normally Heaneys father would bottle up his feelings, and be strong for everyone else, taking things in his stride. Meanwhile in the next verse. “The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram” This extract shows that the baby is oblivious to its surroundings and to what is happening. Heaney uses the baby to represent new life and how life goes on no matter what happens.

Heaney uses enjambement to effectively link the stanzas, making them flow continuously, and they almost always have a deeper meaning. For example, in a couple of the stanzas, he uses the word ‘hand’ to link the verses together. This is a very obvious way of using enjambement but it works really well. As Seamus Heaney walks into the room, he talks about how he was embarrassed to see old men standing up and shaking his hand to show their respect. He is then met by his mother who is in such a state of shock and disbelief that she is coughing out angry and tearless sighs, meaning that she cannot come to terms with what has happened.

We now start to realise that something has happened which would make a mother and father break down, and suggests that it is a brother or sister of the poets. Later on in the poem, we find out that it was actually the brother who was killed. The fact that Heaney had been away at boarding school and had not seen the boy for six weeks, makes you feel sympathetic and you can almost feel Heaneys’ pain by this point. When he goes in… “Snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside” The snowdrops simply represent the innocence of the boy, and maybe even hint at the time of year that this had happened.

The candles are to light the souls journey to heaven, and possibly also as a sign of hope for the family. Since the family are Catholic, they leave the body for friends and relatives to see and say their last goodbyes, and the candles would bring a sense of calm into the room, with their incandescent glow. When Heaney comes to terms with his brothers’ death, he visits him in his room, where he is lying in a coffin box. Heaney describes it as like a cot. “Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple, He lay in the four foot box as in a cot… ”

But he is not just thinking of it as a cot, he is thinking – and almost wishing – that his little brother would wake up. By this point in the poem, Heaney has not mentioned his own feelings of upset, but indirectly describes his feelings to us if we look at the title and the last line of the poem. It is pretty apparent that he thinks his brothers’ life has ended too early in his life, and that is where we notice the title “Mid-Term Break” comes from.

The boy was only four years old, and was killed in a road traffic accident… “A four foot box, a foot for every year. The poet is emphasizing the fact that his brother was just an innocent child, and did not deserve to die at such an early stage in his life. He places this line separate from the rest of the stanzas and this draws your attention to it; making you think about how precious life is, and just when you think that you have it all figured out, something happens that makes you question the purpose of life again. We think that the natural order is for adults to die before children and that is why it is such a hard thing to come to terms with when a child dies in a family.

A point i think that Heaney was trying to stress to the reader, is that no matter what tragedies happen in life, in the end we just have to move on and accept the past so we can move onto the future. “Out Out” is a poem by Robert Frost. It is set in North America and approaches death in the same way as anyone would during the time. The title itself is a quote from the Shakespeare play Macbeth. The full quote is “Out, out, brief candle” and thus by using this it would suggest to anyone who had read Macbeth that life was like a candle.

Is that in the way that “they are easy to make so of little value” or “some candles are shorter than other (some die earlier than others). Maybe it is both. “Out, out-” is a narrative poem by Robert Frost; about how a young boy dies due because he isn’t big enough to hold the saw. The poem, as the above is about death, but also has a hint against Child Labour. The poem is not formatted in stanzas as like “Mid-Term Break”. It is formatted without any gaps; it is continuous. However it does have breaks within it, but it creates these breaks not with stanza and verse, but with plosive words, and shocking images.

It is continuous, time does not stop, you cannot stop it, and you can not reverse the parts you want to. The narrative begins with; “The Buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard”. This is relevant to the poem as it is using personification, suggesting the saw is alive, and maybe in some way human, or more in running with human fears, snake, crocodile, or lion. The quote also uses onomatopoeia. The next few lines merely describe what the saw is doing. Following that is some imagery – “Sweet-scented stuff” and “Five mountain ranges one behind the other”.

These are two examples of imagery, they set the scene and also make you aware of the surroundings. The use of personification is repeated, a similar sentence, for more effect; “And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled”. It generates an impression that the saw is angry in some way, somehow. The poem then goes on to say how much the boy would appreciate a break, this seems to give the impression that this either extortion of the child or just that the child is not strong enough or, as often happens with children, that they are trying to appear older, stronger, with more stamina, than they have.

His wish for a break is acknowledged and granted by his sister, “To please the boy by giving him the half hour, That a boy counts so much when saved from work. His sister stood beside them in her apron, To tell them ‘Supper'”. Then “as though the saw knew what the word supper meant, the saw ‘leapt at the boy’s hand”. Another use of personification for only a living thing can leap. The poem put forward that maybe the boy had given his hand to the saw; “he must have given the hand”. But either way the hand of the boy and the saw met; “However it was, neither refused the meeting”.

The saw had cut off the boy’s hand. He turned towards the others in the room, hoping for some help; “he swung toward them holding up the hand”. He also may have held his hand up to stop the blood from ‘spilling’ from his hand; “Half in appeal, but half as if to keep, The life from spilling”. There was also a comparison in the sentence, comparing life to blood. This is relevant. As without blood we would not have life. While the boy realises this, he screams out to his sister; “Don’t let him cut my hand off- The doctor when he comes. Don’t let him sister! “.

The use of direct speech is effective and makes you feel sympathy for the boy in the poem. A little before there is a sentence, it may have been sarcasm, but it also indicates that this boy working, may be child labour; “Since he was old enough to know, big boy, Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart… “. This also points out that the boy may be mature, but he is still a child at heart. Something else I noticed which indicated this was that; the word boy is repeated throughout the poem effectively stating that the character in the poem is in fact still a boy. “… to please the boy… , “That a boy counts so much… ” etc. But it’s too late for the boy, his hand has already been cut off; “But the hand was gone already”.

He died, nobody believed that he had died; “No one believed. They listened at his heart”. Yet after they had accepted that the boy was without a doubt dead, they went on as normal with their lives. As they weren’t the one’s dead; “No more to build on there. And they, since they, Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs. ” The quote “Little-less-nothing! “, describes the boy’s heartbeat, it was little, then less, then nothing; he’d died; “Little-less-nothing! and that ended it. “.

Personally I think that Robert Frost’s poem; “Out, out-” and its interpretation of death was a lot less sympathetic compared to Seamus Heaney’s poem; “Mid-Term Break”. The characters in “Out, out-” gives the impression that they don’t care, about the boy’s death. As though the death had no importance, no meaning; “And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs. “. Whereas in the poem “Mid-Term Break”; all the characters in the poem are mourning after the young child which has died. And there is also a hint of guilt.

There is a lot of unhappiness in the poem; “I met my father crying”, “coughed out angry tearless sighs”. In the poem “Mid-Term break” the points most emphasized were the reactions to the death of the young boy, the unhappiness, the loss. What had actually happened, etc. There is also a lot of imagery, e. g. “poppy bruise”. The poem “Out, out-” emphasized more on the accident, on the saw and slowly the reactions of the young boy; “The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh, As he swung toward them holding up to hand… “. The poet concentrates little on the ‘spectators’ reactions and views.

The poet makes the poem very pitiless and merciless. I think that both the poems approach death in different ways and both succeed in portraying them in the way that they would have been seen at the time. In the period of “Out Out” married couples had many children – at least 5 and sometimes as many as 20 in a lifetime. However this was not completely for the need for many children but mainly because most of the children would die of disease and famine within the first few years. This led the society to have a nonchalant view to children – that is that if they died it wasn’t much of a problem cause they can always have another.

The parents stopped themselves from getting emotionally attached. However this changed with advances in medical science. By the time of “Mid-Term Break”(1920s-1930s) this had changed considerably with the next generation. Maternal pride and attachment developed within the first years and couples had fewer children because there was no need. Money had a chance of quickly becoming irrelevant and he money they had was of enough value to support their family on the parents’ wages so they didn’t need the children to work to help support them.

Also, of course contraception had helped the number of children. I feel that many people think that the people at the timber yard are heartless and cruel but that is because we are applying modernistic values to the time of “Out Out”. Our values are that everyone is special and couples rarely have more than two children. They also earn more than enough to support these children in excess. Back then every child was a worker, an asset, and one that could be easily replaced.

Both poems approach death in the correct syntax of the time, both with different moral values in mind, and both are subject to modern values. My personal preference is of “Out Out” because I feel that it is better written and described, and also I am highly against people imposing their values one other people who they do not apply to. This is especially a problem in history where people are shocked how people have acted, and are angry even at our own country and our leaders, purely because they use empathy incorrectly. They themselves and their values in someone’s shoes where their values do not apply.

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