How do the writers of Once Upon a Time and Mid-Term Break explore ways in which people show

or conceal their emotions? Both Seamus Heaney’s Mid-Term Break and Gabriel Okara’s Once Upon a Time explore how childhood affects the portrayal of emotion. Sophisticated, adult techniques such as metaphor and euphemisms attempt to conceal true emotions, whilst simplistic language possessing childhood innocence often displays true feeling. The perspective of the narrator impacts on the way the authors write about people displaying emotion. Okara speaks as an adult as he implores ‘believe me, son’. Perhaps as a result of the experienced voice, the language is often figurative as he laments how people ‘only laugh with their teeth.’ This metaphor of saying the laugh comes from the teeth implies aggression, as with the bared fangs of a wild animal. Furthermore, the portrayal of such language with deeper or hidden meaning is itself a demonstration of not displaying one’s true emotions outright. In contrast, Mid-Term Break is taken from the viewpoint of a child. The language is generally a more literal description, such as how ‘the baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram’. When the young Heaney is alone with his dead brother there is more genuine emotion in the writing and he describes his brother ‘wearing a poppy bruise.’ This metaphor has the effect of displaying Heaney’s tender, loving feelings as a poppy is a delicate, even beautiful comparison to draw. It is this honesty that Okara is keen that his son – the other child in the poems – doesn’t lose. Furthermore, he begs him to ‘show me, son, how to laugh.’ Here, Okara uses simple language, unlike earlier where he spoke of having a ‘homeface, officeface’. The moments of simplicity and childish innocence are where true emotion is expressed in the poems. An example of the opposing, adult tendency to conceal true emotions is shown in Mid-Term Break through euphemism. Heaney is comforted about the ‘hard blow’ his family has suffered. However, whilst an attempt is made to avoid truth, this Freudian slip demonstrates the idea that true emotion will always come out, as Heaney’s brother was killed by a car accident. It is ultimately the more adult techniques that are employed when true emotions are being concealed. Innocent, simplistic language of childhood is used to display truths. The idea that true emotion prevails is displayed in Jim Evan’s slip and Okara’s plea to return to a childhood position when he ‘used to laugh like you.’ What I liked: • The close, detailed attention to language, and sensitive analysis of it; • The way points were linked with conjunctions • The confident use of technical terminology What could he have done better? • He could have developed his analysis to explore some points further, such as the comment on true emotions always coming out: what do you think Heaney is saying about language here?

There’s no specific mention of structure – a sentence would suffice, commenting perhaps on the terrible honesty of the last line of Heaney’s poem

What else might he have mentioned? • How social conventions dictate our behaviour: o the baby in MTB hasn’t yet learned that it is ‘wrong’ to ‘laugh’ when a family has been affected by death o the ‘whispers’ of the people who have gathered at the house, although well-meant (trying to be discreet), actually have the effect of alienating the young Heaney (he speaks about himself in the third person) o in Okara’s case, he explores learned behaviour in a range of adult situations, and how it deceives. • How concealing emotions is always artificial: o Okara uses neologisms (a ‘neologism’ (Greek: lit. ‘new sign’): is a new word, often invented on the spot or for a specific purpose) such as ‘Officeface’; the fact these words are themselves artificial reinforces the dishonesty of the things they describe. • Titles: o The suggestion of a fairy-tale time when everyone was honest in their emotions not only emphasises Okara’s bitterness and cynicism about how he sees the world now, but also implies that he sees the possibility of a return to that time as unlikely. o The ‘term’ in Heaney’s title could be read in many ways: it might be read as ‘word’, which could suggest the poem is about the failure of language (as in ‘break’) to deal with terrible situations such as the death of a young child.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.