Box Room - Ms Kirkwood

Box Room - Ms Kirkwood

Box Room Liz Lochead Summary This poem is by the Scottish poet Liz Lochhead. It tells the story of a young woman (the speaker of the poem) visiting her boyfriend's childhood home to stay for the weekend. The speaker meets the boyfriend's mother, and after a perfunctory meeting, is shown to the small bedroom (box room) where she will be sleeping. It is the boyfriend's old childhood bedroom. The mother makes several barbed remarks which attempts to undermine the speaker'.

It is clear that the mother is very protective of her son and does not approve of the speaker as his current girlfriend. What you need to know Minor Sentences: sentences without a verb Word Choice Enjambment: Deliberately cutting off a line in the middle of a phrase to emphasise a word at the beginning or end of a line. Parenthesis: A pair of brackets. Direct Speech Imagery

Rhyming scheme Repetition Questions Personification Pun / Word play Symbolism Oxymoron Ambiguous or double meanings Minor Sentences First the welcoming. Smiles all round. A space for handshakes. These minor sentences sound awkward

and forced. This reflects the awkwardness as the two women greet each other. They almost sound like stage directions which suggests the two women are simply acting out the roles they know they should play, but actually dislike one another. Word Choice Friend : The capital F suggests that the mother has chosen this word carefully she sees the speaker as only a friend, not a girlfriend. She makes this attitude clear through what she says. pathetic / shrine

A shrine is a holy place of worship, usually for a saint or god. The word suggests the mother clings to her son as if she worships him. The speakers disgust at this is conveyed by the word pathetic which is a slamming condemnation of the mother. Word Choice self-defence By describing her laugh as self-defence, the speaker shows that she is aware of the conflict between herself and the mother; she is ready to battle the mother to keep hold of her boyfriend.

you grin gilt-edged from long discarded selves gilt-edged means the pictures are in frames of gold. This hints at how the mother has turned the room into a shrine for the son, idolising him. However, he has changed over time as these photos are of selves that he has left behind. Word Choice closeted so its dark Conveys a sense of claustrophobia and darkness. The room is literally small, but it also suggests the speaker feels

trapped in her relationship. Enjambment A space / for handshakes Space is emphasised at the end of the first line, suggesting that although the women are shaking hands, there is a distance between them. This space is physically represented on the page by the gap between the end of this line and the start of the next. my position / is precarious Placing position at the end of the line

imitates on the page how precarious the girl feels about her situation (in the relationship.) She feels like she is on the edge. Parenthesis (Oh, with concern for my comfort) This is almost like an aside a comment being made to the reader by the speaker. Here, we sense irony the girlfriend suggests the mother doesnt care at all about her comfort. (But where do I fit into the picture?) These brackets contain a rhetorical question the speaker is asking of herself. She has been prompted by the pictures on the wall, but is

actually questioning her place in her boyfriends life. Direct Speech This room was always his when he comes home Its here for him. Unless of course she said, He brings a Friend. She smiled I hope the bed Is soft enough? Hell make do tonight In the lounge on a put-u-up. All right For a night or two. Once or twice before Hes slept there. Itll all be find Im sure The speaker quotes the mothers words directly. By doing this, she makes the reader consider

the mothers words carefully. We detect the mothers sarcasm and subtle digs and hints. (make do a night or two once or twice before etc..)Quoting the mother directly perhaps also suggests the speaker is mocking the mother. Her dislike is very clear. Imagery (Metaphor) her pathetic shrine to your lost boyhood The speaker calls the boxroom a shrine. She is suggesting that the mother has deliberately kept memories of the boys childhood alive, by devoting herself to keeping the room exactly the same as it was. She must think she can brush off time with dust.

Here the speaker suggests that dust represents time and that by dusting the room and keeping it clean, the mother is trying to stop the passage of time trying to cling to her sons childhood. Imagery Your bookshelves are crowded with previous prizes, a selection of plots grown thin. Physical books are compared with the boyfriends past relationships relationships which have ended. Crowded suggests he has had a lot of previous girlfriends. Grown thin suggests they ended because he became bored with them, like someone

becoming bored by reading the same story over and over again. 2nd verse Explain how the speaker is feeling in this section. Does she still feel secure in her relationship? What is the change in tone? Identify two rhetorical questions. What effect do they create? Identify personification. Explain the image. Think about the word shatters. What is the significance of this word? 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 Its here for him. Unless of course, she said, He brings a Friend. She smiled I hope the bed Is soft enough? Hell make do tonight

In the lounge on the put-u-up. All right For a night or two. Once or twice before Hes slept there. Itll all be fine Im 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 its dark, your past a premonition I cant close my eyes to, I shiver despite The electric blanket and the deceptive mildness of the night. Thinking about Character Task: Draw a three ringed Venn Diagram. Label each ring for each character: Speaker, Mother, Boyfriend

Thinking about Character Task: Write out any parts of the poem which tell you something about the character in the appropriate ring. Explain in a few words what this tells you. Are there any overlaps? Write these into the crossing sections of the diagram. 1.Point (what I will show in this paragraph)

2.Evidence (quote from the poem) 3.Explain (explain how this proves my point, unpack any techniques, and give a personal reaction to theme) 4.Link back to question (show how this answers the

question) www.mrsharpetheteacher.com Writing about Character Task: To write a mini essay (3 paragraphs) about each of the 3 characters and their role in the poem.

S: The speaker / mother / boyfriend is.. Q: We know this because .. U: Demonstrate that you understand the quotation. A: Analyse techniques used in the quotation. Use technical vocabulary to show how the reader is made aware of this aspect of character. Mention the readers response / reaction. Writing about Character Task: To write a mini essay (3 paragraphs) about each of the 3 characters and their role in the poem. P: The speaker / mother / boyfriend is.. E: We know this because .. E: Demonstrate that you understand the

quotation. Analyse techniques used in the quotation. Use technical vocabulary to show how the reader is made aware of this aspect of character. Mention the readers response / reaction. L: Link back to the question. What does it tell you about their role in the poem? Character Peer Assessment Is there a clear opening statement (P)? Does the quotation link to the statement? Is there a clear analysis, demonstrating understanding of the quotation? Have they used technical language in their

analysis? Is there a link to the question? Theme Past Motherly love Love Childhood Loneliness Doubt Sleep Jealousy

Ambiguity Write an explanation, including quotations, about how each of these words fits into the poem. See if you can add to the list. Tone Write about a poem which features a contrast or variety of different

tones. Show what techniques the writer uses to create these tones and go on to explain how they give you a clearer understanding of the poems subject. Stanza 1 tone of defiance / aggressiveness / sarcasm Quote (Oh with concern for my comfort) Pathetic Shrine She must think she can brush off time with dust from model

aeroplanes Points for Evaluation Sarcasm created by the aside in brackets. Connotations of pathetic Connotations of shrine Metaphor time& dust Accusatory tone: repetition of she Illustrates the mothers relationship with the son. I laugh it off in self-defence. Connotations of self-defence

suggest a battle between the women. Laugh shows speakers attitude. Who have come for a weekend to state my permanence Emphasis of being last line of stanza 1, reflects how defiant and strong the speaker feels. Permanence demonstrates speakers intentions. Essay Writing: Introductions

Text Author Genre Link to Question Summary Analysis: Step One Identify the Technique

NAME THE TECHNIQUE BEING USED EXPLAIN WHAT IS BEING DESCRIBED When talking about ________ Lochhead uses [name technique] When describing ____________ Lochhead employs a [name technique] In lines ______ Lochhead uses [name technique] when describing _______________ The use of [name technique] helps give the reader an impression of ____________

Using [name technique] in lines ________ helps give the reader a picture of _________ The poet describes ____________________ in line ________ using [name technique] Step Two: Explain how the technique works Word Choice give connotations Imagery (similes & metaphors) identify the 2

things being compared Personification explain what is being personified Enjambment explain what word is emphasised and where it is Parenthesis explain what words are in parenthesis and why Ambiguous meaning what are the two possible meanings? Step Three: Explain the effect EXPLAIN WHY THE TECHNIQUE IS USED WHAT DOES IT TELL THE READER ABOUT THE THING BEING

DESCRIBED? REITERATE HOW IT RELATES TO THE QUESTION? E.G. What does it tell us about the characters in the poem?

What does it add to the readers understanding of the whole situation? What does it make the reader think about? What does it tell us about the poets message? How does it relate to Lochheads theme? How does it make you feel? Useful Evaluative Phrases:

Shows Suggests Hints Indicates Demonstrates Implies

Gives the impression of/that... Illustrates Evokes Conjures up the idea of... Creates a feeling of... Brings to mind... Box Room by Liz Lochhead is a poem which describes the encounter between a girl (speaker) and her boyfriends mother when she visits to stay for the weekend. The girlfriend spends time in the box room of the title (the boyfriends old bedroom).

The poem describes her encounter with the boyfriends mother, as well as her observations when in the room. Through its firstperson account of the girls stay, the poem suggests that her surroundings affect her deeply, undermining the confidence she had about her relationship and reducing her to doubt. The ending suggests that the girl realises her boyfriend is not who she thought he was, and that the relationship cannot continue. There are two clear tones present in the poem. The defiant, assertive tone of the first stanza presents the speakers strong attitude when in conflict with the mother. However, there is a shift in the second stanza to a more doubtful, uncertain tone when the speaker begins to question her relationship. These two different tones are created through a number of techniques, including: the use of parenthesis, word choice, metaphor, oxymoron, questions and syntax.

Later in stanza two, the doubtful tone which is now well established, is furthered by the description of the abandoned objects in the room. Seemingly innocuous childhood items begin to take on deeper significances for the speaker as she considers her relationship. She is left feeling like her relationship is hanging in the balance. This is emphasised through her use of enjambment in line 33. Q The phrase my position / is precarious is split between the two lines so that the word position is at the end of the line. U+A+T

Although she is literally talking about her position: being in the box room, the clever use of the line break conveys a different idea too. Placing the word position at the end of the line literally puts it in a precarious place on the page hanging off the end of the line. This reflects what it describes; it mirrors how the girl feels her place in the relationship is uncertain and could be about to end. This adds to the tone of the stanza, emphasising the uncertainty and instability the poet clearly feels. Not only does her stay in the box room make her feel uncomfortable in the boyfriends house, it also makes her feel uncomfortable in the relationship. Conclusions Once youve completed the main

body of your essay, write a conclusion summing up your response. Recap on the techniques you have mentioned and link back to the question once more. Conclusion While this poem appears to be a straightforward description of an insignificant experience, it is made clear that the events described have had a major impact on the speaker. Overall I feel towards the girl / mother because Through her use of [list the techniques you have mentioned] Lochhead creates a dramatic and unsettling picture of a relationship breaking down. The message of the poem is clearly

that someones background and past are an important part of their character, and that the past can affect the present in many ways. In the opening stanza the reader sides with the speaker, admiring her strength of character and wit when in conflict with the mother. By the end of the poem, our sympathy has been cemented as we fully appreciate the speakers vulnerabilities exposed in the equivocatory second stanza. It is largely Lochheads skilful use of the two contrasting tones which achieve this effect.

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