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