Box Room Notes - Elgin Academy

English 17/9/12
Notes on “Box Room” by Liz
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.
• 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
• Three short minor sentences suggest a
• “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?)
• 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
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?