The poems ‘Out, Out’ by Robert Frost and ‘Mid Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney both contain many similarities and differences. Both poems tackle the issue of child death, although both from very different perspectives. ‘Mid Term Break’ has a much more personal approach to the subject as the narrative character is the brother of the deceased as opposed to in ‘Out, Out’ where the narrator is detached from the characters, being an outsider. ‘Out, Out’ tells of the events surrounding the death of the child whereas ‘Mid Term Break’ concentrates on the effects of the child’s death on the family and the accident itself is not actually seen.
The title of both poems illustrate how although the children in the poems are dead their lives seemed incomplete as ‘Out, Out’ is an unfinished quote from the play Macbeth and ‘Mid Term Break’ shows that the term is not yet over. This seems to be the theme that both poems focus on, the pointlessness of the deaths suffered. Both of the deaths in the poems were at the hand of machine. In ‘Out, Out’ it was the ‘buzz saw’ and in ‘Mid Term Break’, ‘the bumper knocked him clear’ suggests he was killed by a car or some kind of vehicle.
This could suggest how man made machines are becoming more widely used and men may soon become expendable. Throughout ‘Out, Out’ the ‘buzz saw’ is personified to sound like an angry, hungry animal. The poem seems to be loosely based around the boy’s connection with this saw and it is crucial to the poem. Words like ‘snarled’ and ‘rattled’, give the reader a vicious image, which creates an uneasy feeling. ‘Mid Term Break’ also manages to create an uneasy feeling from the first line also. The poem begins by saying the narrator is sitting in the ‘college sick bay’, which straight away gives the impression something is wrong.
The structure of both poems is very different. In ‘Out, Out’ the lines run continuously. There are no stanza’s this could be to emphasise how none of the workers in the poem stop working after the boys death there is no consideration ‘And they, since they were not the ones dead, turned to their affairs. ‘ On the other hand, ‘Mid Term Break’ has seven, three-line stanzas, very regimented. This feels as if the only way the boy feels he can get through the day is by regimenting it and trying not to let his emotions affect him.
The final line, which is very alone, summarises the whole poem. It is set alone because to heighten the shock of the words ‘A four foot box, a foot for every year’ by revealing the age of the child it completes the poem and it is like the final piece of the puzzle. Both poems have irregular rhyme schemes. They hardly rhyme at all. This could be because the poets do not want to detract your attention from the main themes; they want to show the importance lays in the content not the structure of the poem. Both poems also use a lot of enjambment.
This quickens the pace of the poem. It seems like someone is trying to get all the words out at once because they are so difficult to say. In the instance of ‘Mid Term Break’ as my mother held my hand In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs’ this is a very moving line where the mothers grief is shown to a maximum level emphasised by the enjambment. Throughout the whole of ‘Out, Out’ the poem seems to focus on the fact that things do not stop, everything runs on continuously. The structure highlights this fact also.
The enjambment in this poem ‘And from there those that lifted eyes could count Five mountain ranges one behind the other’. Another thing the poets want us to think about in the themes of the poem is responsibility, in particular the want for boys to grow up and become men too quickly. In ‘Out, Out’ there is a repetition of the word ‘boy’ which emphasises how he should not be doing the kind of work he is ‘Since he was old enough to know, big boy, doing a mans work’ The tragedy of this poem is heightened by the focus on the boy’s age.
In ‘Mid Term Break’ the narrator who is a young man, and the brother of the deceased child, feels pressured not to cry and to be strong. ‘When I came in I was embarrassed by old men standing up to shake my hand and tell me they were ‘sorry for my trouble’. From this line, it feels as if people are treating him like an adult and all he wants is to be able to mourn and act his age, not act strong for other people.
Age plays a very big part in both of these poems. Both poems have a very dark, sad atmosphere and mood. Out, Out’ covers the accident in more detail so is more gory and horrific. ‘Mid Term Break’ shows the response to the accident and is a lot more about the affects. I think the pace of ‘Mid Term Break’ adds to the gloom of the poem. In ‘Out, Out’ I find the phrase ‘He lay and puffed his lips out of breath’ this gives a sense of how the boy is experiencing peace but also it makes you panic at his loss of breath. There are many places in this poem, which make u panic.
For instance ‘So. But the hand was gone already’ it makes the reader realise the finality of this boys accident. In ‘Mid Term Break’ the phrase ‘With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurse’ shows how the narrator detaches the accident by not using the child’s name but replacing it with ‘corpse’ the anonymity helps him to cope with his grief. Also ‘Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple’ is interesting. It is not gory at all and the description of the dead boy is done very tastefully and not gory at all.
The poppy is a symbol of remembrance, which links in with the themes of this poem perfectly. Out of both poems, I personally prefer ‘Mid Term Break’ because it feels more personal to read. I also like the varied language techniques used and the subtlety used to highlight the boys grief. I am not able to empathise as much with the boy in ‘Out, Out’ even though in some ways it is more tragic, because it does not relate as closely to me as ‘Mid Term, Break’ does. This could be due to when the poem was written, as it is an older poem.