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The use of personification is used by Heaney as he comments on “wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple”. Poppies are used to remember those who have died and Heaney is remembering how his brother looked when he died. He uses metaphor to describe his brother as he “lay in the four foot box as in his cot”. Heaney would have remembered seeing his brother sleeping in a cot and he refers to the coffin as being a cot. For Heaney his brother had “No gaudy scars” and he sees him looking as he would have remembered him when he was alive but now he is dead. The last line “A four foot box, a foot for every year” stands alone in this poem.

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Heaney uses monosyllables to let the reader feel the pain he is going through at the death of his four year old brother. We can feel Heaney’s shock at the unexpected death of his young brother. Heaney’s childhood came to an end with the abrupt and untimely death of his brother. In contrast Duffy’s childhood was brought to an end by the remarks of “A rough boy told you how you were born”. This was taking place while Duffy was looking at the growth of tadpoles in the classroom, which would have been her only experience of change and growth until that stage. She describes show she “stared at your parents, appalled”.

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Sexual awareness and growing up is a favourite topic of Duffy’s. She continues this theme in the last verse of her poem. She compares the weather at the end of the school year to the changing feelings she is experiencing as she enters adolescence. “That feverish July”, the references she makes to experiences herself as she becomes more aware of her changing emotions, “A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot, fractious under the heavy, sexy sky”. Duffy is looking for an adult to explain things to her and reassure her of these changes taking place inside her but “Mrs Tilscher smiled, then turned away”.

Duffy uses metaphor to describe the feelings and bodily changes she is going through. She refers to the “sky split open into a thunderstorm”, to describe how she feels inside. Both of these poems are describing how each poet felt as their childhood eras came to an end, Heaney’s by the death of his brother and Duffy’s by her introduction into the adult world of sexual awareness. To conclude, both poems are about life and death and what’s in between. Growing up is a main topic but each poet has their individual experiences of life.

I preferred “In Mrs. Tilchser’s Class” because at various points throughout the poem I had mutual memories such as the long pole used to open the windows as well as receiving a gold star from time to time. There were a few parts I found humorous also for example whenever the boy explained to Carol Ann Duffy “how you were born”. “Mid-term Break” was at times a bit hard to understand where the poet was coming from. Nevertheless I felt extremely sympathetic towards Seamus Heaney because of what he had to experience at such a young age.

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Kylie Garcia

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