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Flashcards in Midterm Break Deck (15):
1

Author

Seamas Heaney

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Structure

- 7 stanzas of 3 lines each, then singular line
- single isolated line hits hard, puts emphasis on age of boy + causes us to think of the tragedy of his death

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Stanza 1

- opening line already suggests something is wrong - why couldn't he wait in class to be picked up
- use of word knelling is ominous (rather than ringing)
- also the fact that neighbours drove him home, why couldn't parents?

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Title

- suggests should be free, happy time - this contrasts the reality of the poem (dark + sad)

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Stanza 2

- meeting father crying is also v. foreboding, was not the norm for grown men to cry in 1950s Ireland, especially as he had 'always taken funerals in his stride'
- this stanza also confirms that something terrible has happened, a death has occurred, presumably someone in the family

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Stanza 3

- baby has no idea what's going on, makes situation even more tragic
- embarrassment at old men shaking his hand shows he's just a normal teenager, embarrassed at having to act as eldest as parents are distraught

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Stanza 4

- 'sorry for your trouble'
- revealed that protagonist is eldest, the fact that it's whispers informing strangers means everyone from area has come - v. serious
- mother held hand

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Stanza 5

- mother coughing out angry tearless sighs shows she is too overcome by grief and anger to even cry
- corpse staunched + bandages by the nurses - slightly gruesome image - later contrasted

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Stanza 6

- 'the room' is v. vague but it's obvious what he's talking about
- image of white, peaceful room with flowers and candles everywhere - use of word 'soothing' suggests a calm environment, + that they're both soothing the boy and the family
- 'saw him for the first time in 6 weeks' had been at school, now on unwanted break
- "paler now" - still thinking of what was before

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Stanza 7

- "poppy bruise" - poppies are traditionally flower of the dead
- "lay in 4 foot box as in cot" - still thinking of him as before, looks so peaceful lying there could be asleep (no gaudy scars)
- revealed he died in car accident
- in this and next stanza, refers to boy using 'he/him' pronouns rather than as 'the corpse'

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Final line

- hammers home the tragedy of the situation
- use of 'box' rather than 'coffin' twice suggests he is reluctant to accept the death
- emphasises death + informs of youth of child

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Themes

- death
- childhood
- family

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Tone

- sombre
- restrained

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What makes poem so powerful?

- emotions are v. understated - Heaney describes everything that happened as he saw it, but doesn't even make a personal comment on anything
- describes the emotions + devastation of others, but never lets his own emotions come to the surface
- one can sense his deep sorrow, especially in the last line, but he never explicitly states his feelings towards/about the situation

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Techniques

1. Imagery
- especially vivid when describing bedroom scene
2. Poem speeds up briefly during baby line, emphasising momentary lift from deep sadness, but soon slows down again
3. One instance of full rhyme: last two lines - helps bring closure to poem, gives ending sense of finality, emphasising theme of death
4. Assonance/internal rhyme - e.g. "Bells knelling" + "standing up to shake my hand"
5. Simile - "he lay in the 4-foot box as in his cot"
6. Onomatopoeia - "knelling"
7. Alliteration - "Four Foot"
8. Enjambement - several lines flow into one another, there is no set rhyme scheme - this may have lessened the impact