GCSE Poetry Assignment

I will be doing a comparison between two poems for my coursework. Both of these poems are familar in that they deal with the writers experience of death at a young age, but there are a lot of differences in the writers style and in the overall feel of the two poems. The first poem i will be looking at is an American author Robert Frost's "Out, Out" writen in 1916 and the second poem is Seamus Heaney's "Mid-Term Break" writen in 1966.

Out, Out.

"Out, Out", from the very start gives an ominous feel to the reader, this sets the tone for the poem as the reader is aware that something bad may happen.

"The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard." This is a dramatic start to the poem and the writer was aware of the effect this would have on the reader. The poem then goes on to describe how the sun was setting far away over five mountain ranges indicating a rural surrounding and that the end of the day is nearing which is quite a contrast to the first line as it sets a idyllic scene.

The writer then writes -" and nothing happened: the day was all but done." This line indicates that although the work for the day is nearing its end that something is about to happen. Frost then goes on to explain that the boy concerned in the poem might be pleased to finish early, and that his sister then comes out in her apron to say that supper is ready. These lines (10-14) give an insight into the family. A young boy and girl both working on probably a farm in rural America. This also indicates that the family were not wealthy if the children had to work and not be able to go to school. The feel of the poem at this point is quite tragic. The poor children working and the boy wanting to finish early for his supper.

Then in this point in the poem the chainsaw "leaps out" at the boys hand. The writer has persaified the saw by it "Leaped out at the boys hand, or seemed to leap." Frost also indicates that the chainsaw new what supper meant and that it was "hungry" when it took the boys hand. The next part of the poem explains the aftermath - how the boy held his arm in the air - to keep the blood from spilling out and in shock to what had happened. At this point the boy - " doing a mans work" knew then what had happened and how it would affect his life, and you realise he is only a child and how awful the situation really is.

The writer doesn't go into a lot of detail about the childs death. He describes how he is put to sleep with ether and then "the watcher at his pulse took a fright" and that they "listened at his heart" - "Little - less - nothing! - and that ended it." They were all shocked that the boy had died but that as they " were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."

This poem describes the hard life in America at this times, how the children were required to work and that after the boy died the people had to return to work. It is a very sad poem - that life was so hard for these people.

"Mid-Term Break"

In this poem Seamus Heaney describes the tragic death of his younger brother. He starts the poem

" I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close."

The reader is aware that the writer is in school and possibly unwell. Although the "Knelling bells" are reminisant of funeral bells. In the next verse Heaney describes how he met his father crying and you are now aware something bad has happened. Heaney also says that his father "had always taken funerals in his stride." So we know something must have happened to his family. Heaney the describes the baby cooing and laughing in the pram, this seems out of place with the saddness in the poem.

When the men in the poem stand to shake Heaney's hand he is embarrassed because it would tend to be the younger people who stand to shake the older peoples hand, and that they tell him "sorry for my trouble" - that they didn't really know what else to say.

Heaney also says the people say he was the eldest child, away in school and he holds his mothers hand. At this point you can guess that something has happened to one of the children.

Then Heaney describes the ambulance bringing the "corpse" home. Corpse is a very harsh way to describe the body of a loved one. Although when Heaney describes the next morning this is a much more sensitive calm feel.

"Snow drops and candles soothed the bedside;
I saw him for the first time in six weeks."

Heaney goes into detail as to how his brother looks - "Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple." Quite a touching way to describe the bruise on his brother, and that he had no "gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear" indicates that the boy was knocked down and that his death was probably quick.

The last line of Heaney's poem carries the most impact - "A four foot box, a foot for every year" and the reader knows that his brother was only a small child.

This is a tragic poem about the loss of a loved one. Heaney remains quite detached and clinical about the death but he still conveys a lot of emotion. Although both poems deal with death they are culturally very different. In "Out, Out" the boy in the poem is working in rural America and there are not many people to mourn his death where as in "Mid-Term Break" Heaney is away at school in Ireland which indicates his family were richer. There were also family and neighbours to mourn the child.

Heaney is also more caring in his poem than Frost although neither writer conveys a lot of personal emotion, but he has had a lot of tragedy in his life, both poems also aim to shock the reader, understandably as both children died in unforunate circumstances. There is also a class difference evident in the poem - the children are from different social backgrounds although this may also be due to the time frame. "Out, Out" is written in early 1900's whereas Heaney's is written in modern day Ireland, this identifies just how much society and their views of children can change in a short space of time.

Heaney also appears to be stating the facts of his experience in a standard layout whereas Frost's poem resembles prose.

Both poems are very sad and show just how much the authors must have been affected by the deaths. Typically both men fail to include personal emotion although Frost's poem has an angrier feel to it. Like he is angry that this situation arose, whereas as Heaney's poem had a sadder feel with a lot of thought for this mother and father. I prefer Heaney's gentler poem of his brothers death to Frost's angrier and more dramatic "Out, Out"

Yeah 9 of 10 on the basis of 777 Review.