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Death in “On My First Daughter” and “Mid-Term Break”

Reconciliation with Death

Reconciling with the loss of a child barely seems possible, yet, in Ben Johnson’s poem, the lead character finds his consolation in faith. By saying that the Virgin “Hath placed amongst her virgin-train” (Johnson, 1616, line 9), the lead character manages to stifle his sorrow and find his consolation in the idea of innocence being rewarded. As a result, the death of the child gains significance. Seamus Heaney’s Mid-Term Break, however, does not give the same satisfying resolution to its readers.

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Instead, the author delivers the last line as bitterly as humanly possible, making the reveal of the poem shocking and gut-wrenching: “A four-foot box, a foot for every year” (Heaney, 1966). Similarly, the significance of the death is underplayed; the author represents it as a tragic and absurd, making it all the more horrid.

Attitudes: Comparison

Unlike in A good man is hard to find by O’Connor (1953), in On my first daughter and Mid-Term Break, the attitude toward an inevitable death is sympathetic, with a significant amount of pain and sorrow. While O’Connor’s concept of impending doom implies that those facing it deserve it, Johnson’s and Henaey’s characters are more sympathetic.

Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for death, in turn, offers a different viewpoint on the subject matter. In Dickinson’s poem, the Death is portrayed as the one that sets people free: “We slowly drove – He knew no haste / And I had put away / My labor and my leisure too, / For His Civility” (Dickinson, 1890, lines 5-8). Therefore, although all four represent death as significant to the living, Dickinson’s shows its meaning for the dying. Thus, it is the most original and the least dark. As a result, it allows reconciling with death by accepting and embracing it.

References

Dickinson, E. (1980). Because I could not stop for death. Web.

Heaney, S. (1966). Mid-term break. Web.

Johnson, B. (1616). On my first daughter. Web.

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O’Connor, F. (1953). A good man is hard to find. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Death in “On My First Daughter” and “Mid-Term Break”." January 5, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/death-in-on-my-first-daughter-and-mid-term-break/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Death in “On My First Daughter” and “Mid-Term Break”." January 5, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/death-in-on-my-first-daughter-and-mid-term-break/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Death in “On My First Daughter” and “Mid-Term Break”'. 5 January.

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