English 17/9/12 Notes on “Box Room” by Liz Lochhead Essay Question due next Friday. • Int 2: Choose a poem which deals with birth or • death or love or hate or jealousy. By looking at the content and the language of the poem, show how your understanding of one of these topics is deepened by your reading of the poem. Higher: Choose a poem in which the creation of mood or atmosphere is an important feature. Show how the poet creates the mood or atmosphere and discuss its importance in your appreciation of the poem as a whole. Themes • Relationships ( mother/son; mother/ prospective daughter-in-law; male/female) • Childhood and adulthood. • Setting: poet arrives with boyfriend at his mother’s house to tell her relationship is a permanent one. Mother makes it clear that it is purely temporary by showing poet into boyfriend’s old room. The arrival • Atmosphere of unease; stilted conversation. • Three short minor sentences suggest a performance. • “She put me in my place” (a pun with a double meaning) • Wry humour- perhaps somewhat bitter: note first “aside”. This gets us on her side The conversation • Direct speech brings mother to life- shows the poet isn’t • • • • • • being paranoid. Hostile attitude Word choice: Use of “Friend” “Put-u-up” suggests poet is actually putting boyfriend out and they are “putting up” with her. Mother subtly informs poet other girls have been brought home in the past. Ambiguity: “It’ll all be fine, I’m sure”- she’s not going to lose her boy. Euphemism: “Next door if you want to wash your face”won’t say “bathroom”- too prim (two-faced?) Reflections • More wry humour; Word choice-ambiguity: • “lightweight”; “glossy”; “synthetic”; “Miracle” • • (literally sth. inexplicable). She refuses to be dismissed as superficial and not good enough) “pathetic shrine”: tone is dismissive. She doesn’t worship son or cling to his memory. Becomes sarcastic with reference to dust and aeroplanes. She balances “for the weekend” with “my permanence”, restating her confidence. Shaken confidence • Repetition of “Peace to unpack”. She can’t find peace; • • • • the conversation was unsettling. She realises she can’t know the son as a boy, as the mother did. Her feelings are reflected in her description of the room: “Dun-coloured walls, one small window”. Personification: “Persistent fear/Elbows me””. “Embedded” is a pun related to the bed in the room. “The bed we sometimes share” is an attempt to assert herself. What would the mother think! The Shrine • Alliteration: “grin gilt-edged” intensifies the • effect of being surrounded. Cliché: ”fit into the picture” is both a return to the wry humour but also carries the sense of being excluded. Alliteration again: “previous prizes” is ambiguous and sounds like it’s being spat out. Is she another prize, another plot grown thin? A note of resentment creeps in. The Egg Collection • Eggs are obviously a female symbol. Past • • girlfriends are referenced here. The word choice “shatters” refers to both the fragile eggs and her vulnerability. Could “never wrecked a nest” mean “never split up another couple?” The use of enjambment, where “You said” is carried over to the next line, stresses those words and shows her growing unease. Total Loss of Confidence • She is no more than an “invited guest” among “abandoned objects” • • • • • (like his former hobbies and ex-girlfriends). Enjambment again and alliteration: “my position/Is precarious”. The two devices intensify her precarious position. “It’s dark” –their future? Paradox and alliteration gives “your past a premonition” impact. “I can’t close my eyes “ is ambiguous – she can’t sleep or ignore the possibility that he might abandon her too. All attempts at humour gone. The apparent warmth of her welcome is as artificial as the heat of the electric blanket. Does the poetic form- the rhyming couplets-suggest the way in which she tries to control her situation?