The poem mid-term break dramatizes the distress that a family goes through in a time of mourning. The second stanza starts with “In the porch I met my father crying—He had always taken funerals in his stride.” His father is normally a calm and collected man, but this tragedy has shaken him up dramatically. Later in the fourth stanza, it says “Away at school, as my mother held my hand. In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.” Heaney’s mother is so distraught over the death that she cannot even cry anymore. This event has torn a hole in the heart of the family, and it has very apparent through the description given to us that they are have an extremely difficult time coping with this.
In the opening stanza, Heaney, as a child, is waiting in the sick bay at school to be taken home. There is a sense of boredom as he counts the bells waiting for classes to end. It is as if he does not really understand what is going on and would rather be in class. He did not know the circumstances of him being in the sick bay until much later when he gets home. As he arrives home and sees his parents, crying he understands what has happened.
Heaney never reveals a sense of heavy grieving, which intensifies the darkness: he hears the whispering of strangers who describe him as "away at school" -- as if his presence could have made a difference – and he hears his mother's "angry tearless coughs". Heaney writes that "Whispers informed strangers that I was the eldest," which only strengthens his emotional wall. Without any sense of betrayal, he says that the ambulance arrives with his brother’s corpse "stanched and bandaged" as if he were describing a package newly delivered, and he says nothing about the vigil that follows.
This poem is also a very personal one due to the fact that it seems to be about the death of his little brother. His brother died at the age of four when he was crossing the street and was hit by an oncoming car. Heaney was away at boarding school at...