Box Room Study Pack

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Contents

1) ‘Box Room’ – the poem

2) Summary

3) Key Quotes & Analysis

4) Practice Essay Questions

5) Evaluation Guide

6) Worked Essay plan

7) Suggested Revision Tasks

8) Useful Evaluative Phrases

9) Personal Notes

Box Room

First the welcoming. Smiles all round. A space
For handshakes. Then she put me in my place –
(Oh, with concern for my comfort). ‘This room
Was always his – when he comes home
It’s here for him. Unless of course,’ she said,
‘He brings a Friend.’ She smiled ‘I hope the bed
Is soft enough? He’ll make do tonight
In the lounge on the put-u-up. All right
For a night or two. Once or twice before
He’s slept there. It’ll all be fine I’m sure –
Next door if you want to wash your face.’
Leaving me ‘peace to unpack’ she goes. My weekend case
(Lightweight, glossy, made of some synthetic
Miracle) and I are left alone in her pathetic
Shrine to your lost boyhood. She must
Think she can brush off time with dust
From model aeroplanes. I laugh it off in self defence.
Who have come for a weekend to state my permanence.

Peace to unpack – but I found none
In this spare room which once contained you. (Dun-
Coloured walls, one small window which used to frame
Your old horizons). What can I blame
For my unrest, insomnia? Persistent fear
Elbows me, embedded deeply here
In an outgrown bed (Narrow, but no narrower
Than the single bed we sometimes share).
On every side you grin gilt edged from long-discarded selves (But where do I fit into the picture?) Your bookshelves
Are crowded with previous prizes, a selection
Of plots grown thin. Your egg collection
Shatters me – that now you have no interest
In. (You just took one from each, you never wrecked a nest,
You said). Invited guest among abandoned objects, my position Is precarious, closeted so – it’s dark, your past a premonition I can’t close my eyes to, I shiver despite
The electric blanket and the deceptive mildness of the night.

Liz Lochhead
Summary

Box Room by the Scottish poet Liz Lochhead explores issues of love, family, relationships, the past, atmosphere, womanhood and place. It tells the story of a girl visiting her boyfriend’s childhood home. She is to stay in his old room (the box room of the title) for the weekend.

The girlfriend recounts her meeting with her boyfriend’s mother upon arrival at the house. We get the impression the mother does not approve of the girlfriend. Although both women are polite and friendly, there is tension between them. The mother’s actions and words convey a frosty dislike. The speaker of the poem seems aware of this however and adopts a strong, defiant attitude – she is willing to fight for her man. The power-struggle between the two women continues as the girlfriend is shown her room. Descriptions of the box room itself seem to illustrate the relationship between the mother and son: she is protective of him and wishes to cling to the memory of his childhood. The speaker pities the mother whom she views as pathetic.

The second stanza describes the girlfriend’s stay that night. She describes the room, the objects in it and her inability to sleep. Each of the objects in the room relates to the boyfriend’s past. The girlfriend begins to wonder if she really knows her boyfriend at all. She begins to doubt if their relationship will last. The room itself adds to the mood of doubt and uncertainty– it is dull, claustrophobic and unwelcoming. At the end of the poem, the speaker is lying awake, unable to sleep, wondering what the future will be for her relationship, and thinking about how unpleasant the whole experience of staying in the box room has been.

Through its description of the room and the speaker’s reactions to it, the poem explores how doubt and uncertainty can affect a relationship.

The title

Up until the 1930s houses in Britain (especially country houses and larger...
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