Family Life



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Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney captures the sad emotionsassociated with the death of the persona’s younger brother. On theother hand, Digging represents the poet’s reflection of hisgrandfather and father. Notably, both poems portray particularaspects of family life. The poet cited personal experiences toreinforce thematic elements. Mid-Term Break shows theemotional ties that bind families while Digging manifests theimportance of cultural heritage.

In Mid-Term Break, the poet captures the somber moodattributable to the death of his brother. The persona wasacknowledged as “the eldest” in the family (line 11). Therefore,he was devastated to lose his sibling. The poet noted that hisbrother seemed “paler” when the former saw him “for the firsttime in six weeks” (line 18). On the other head, Diggingcaptures the pride associated with cultural heritage. Family lifeattains meaning when certain traditions are propagated. The poetmentions that his father “could handle a spade just like his oldman” (line14). The persona also mentions the “living roots”(line 27) that made him remember “the cold smell of potato mould,the squelch and slap of soggy peat, the curf cuts of an edge” (line25).

In Mid-Term Break, the poet shows the devastation that parentsexperience when they lose a child in death. The persona noted thathis sibling was laid in “a four-foot box, a foot for every year”(line 22). Since the boy had died at the tender age of 4, the familywas noticeably devastated. In fact, the persona met his “fathercrying” in the porch (line 4). Although the latter “had alwaystaken funerals in his stride,” such pain was unbearable (line 5).The poet notes that Big Jims Evans described the child’s death as a“hard blow” (line 6). Besides, the persona’s mother “coughedout angry tearless sighs” to display her despondency (line 13). Onthe other hand, Digging shows the tremendous effort thatparents expend while taking care of their family’s immediate needs.The poet states that his “grandfather cut more turf in a day thanany other man on Toner’s bog” (line 16). Therefore, parents showan incredible level of diligence and commitment as they provided forthe needs of their families.

Mid-Term Break shows the unity that is achieved during timesof family tragedy. After the persona sat in the “college sick bay”(line 1) and waited for his classes to come “to a close,” some“neighbors drove” him home (line 3). In addition, themanifestation of sympathy from others made the poet “embarrassed”(line 8). Old men would stand up to shake his hand and say “theywere sorry” for the calamity (line 10). Furthermore, the poet’smother held his “hand in hers” to strengthen him (line 12).However, Digging highlights the fact that differentgenerations could pursue diverse careers. The poet’s father “rootedout all tops, buried the bright edge deep to scatter new potatoesthat we picked” (line 12). Hence, his parent excelled while workingon potato farms. The persona’s grandfather was also involved inagricultural activities as he heaved “sods over his shoulder (line23)” The poet acknowledged that he had “no spade to follow menlike them” (line 28). Admittedly, the persona experienced frequentrecollections of his “living roots” (line 27). However, heemphasized his determination to “dig with” his squat pen (line31). Rather than pursue a career in agriculture, the poet chose to bean author.

Indeed, the two poems highlight different aspects of family life.While Mid-Term Break shows the emotional connections that dictatefamily life, Digging pinpoints the significance of cultural heritagewithin the family.