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Box Room by Liz Lochhead

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Choose a poem in which the creation of mood or atmosphere is an important feature. Show how the poet creates a mood or atmosphere, and discuss its importance in your appreciation of the poem as a whole.

A poem which I recently studied was Box Room by Liz Lochhead. This poem focuses on the recount of a girlfriend meeting her boyfriends’ mother for the very first time. For the duration of her stay, the girl stays in her boyfriend’s childhood room; this is the ‘box room’ referred to in the title.

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The poem describes her encounter with the boyfriend’s mother, as well as her observations of his room. There is a very harsh and tense mood throughout the whole poem between the poet and her boyfriend’s mother. These moods are evoked very clearly throughout the poem through Lochhead’s use of word choice, Imagery and sentence structure. In the first stanza, the poet talks about the tension between the mother and her attitude towards her.

She makes known to reader immediately that at the first meeting, the tension between the mother and herself was one that was harsh and bitter.

‘(Oh with the concern for my comfort)’

This use of parenthesis immediately shows that the poet is fully aware that the mother does not approve of her by her action, she sarcastically makes a side comment to herself stating that she knows the mother does not care for her wellbeing or comfort but is in fact saying that to put up a polite front for the sons sake. Later in the first stanza, the poet once again makes it aware that she is not fond of the mother and begins to mock her and the mood is humorous as the poet begins to insult her preservation of her sons room

‘her pathetic shrine to your lost boyhood’

The use of ‘pathetic’ suggests that the girlfriend recognises that the mother is clinging to her sons’ boyhood as if she is worshipping him. The poets word choice of ‘pathetic’ conveys her disgust of what the mother is doing and also shows that she is somewhat mocking the mother for being so desperate to remain in touch with her sons childhood. This evokes a mood of disgust on the poets behalf, she recognises that the mother is very dedicated to holding on to her son and his youth. The mood then continues to remain a mocking tone

‘I laugh it off in self-defence’

She is mocking the fact that the mother has kept everything in the son’s room exactly as it was in his adolescent years. The conflict between herself and the mother is now fully underway and she uses the word ‘defence’ in a way that makes it look like she is in a battle with the mother and is ready and able to defend herself in order to win the boyfriends full undivided attention. Also the use of ‘laugh’ shows a strain of sarcasm once again in the poets tone as she does not find it genuinely humorous, but laughs at the pitifulness of the mother and her whole dedication to preserve her son’s childhood. The poet then moves onto the second stanza where the mood shifts dramatically. The poet, who was previously confident about the strength of herself and her boyfriend’s relationship, begins to have doubts about its future. She begins to show this doubt through her use of personification ‘Your bookshelves are crowded with previous prizes, a selection of plots grown thin’ The books are a clear representation of the boyfriends past relationships which have ended and are nothing more now than an object in his past. The girlfriend now fears that she will become one of those objects, a past relationship that means nothing more to the boy other than a piece of his past youth, a book on the shelf unseen to by the boy and unworthy to him. She continues on to show that she is uncertain of the relationships future, still holding onto an uncertain mood that continues to develop throughout her stay.

‘Your past a premonition’
This use of oxymoron emphasises the uncertain atmosphere that the poet was building up to. It does so by using the word premonition, a glimpse into the future, quite the opposite of past. It suggests that the speaker is observing these objects and is viewing them as clues from the boys previous relationship. The clues all add up to make her strongly believe that she will be facing the same fate as the books on the shelf. These objects give the poet a preview of what she can imagine happening in the near future, her becoming an ‘ex’ girlfriend. The final statement of the poem sums up the mood that is evoked throughout the whole poem.

‘I shiver despite the electric blanket and the deceptive mildness of the night’

The use of the word ‘deceptive’ could be referring to the apparent friendly welcome the mother had first gave and how she has been falsely believed that she was warm hearted and friendly, when the reality is the mother is just like the atmosphere that night, cold and bitter. Even though the poet is physically warm due to the electric blanket, the coldness she is feeling mentally is caused by the emotional distress she is suffering from. She is distressed by the thoughts running through her head, the thoughts that have occurred due to the events that have taken place around and inside the ‘Box Room’. The atmosphere that is present in the final statement is one of a depressing nature as the girl is now deeply concerned for the future of her relationship.

In conclusion Liz Lochhead was able to create different moods and atmospheres that were important in the contribution of the understanding of the poem and its underlining theme surrounding the first meeting of the girl and her boyfriend’s mother. She was able to create these atmospheres effectively through her use of oxymoron, word choice and personification.

Cite this Box Room by Liz Lochhead

Box Room by Liz Lochhead. (2016, Oct 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/box-room-by-liz-lochhead/

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