LitScope: What Has Happened to Lulu by Charles Causley

LitScope: What Has Happened to Lulu by Charles Causley

For Malaysian Form 4 Students.

 

The Poem

What Has Happened to Lulu

What has happened to Lulu, mother?
What has happened to Lu?
There’s nothing in her bed but an old rag-doll
And by its side a shoe.

Why is her window wide, mother,
The curtain flapping free,
And only a circle on the dusty shelf
Where her money-box used to be?

Why do you turn your head, mother,
And why do tear drops fall?
And why do you crumple that note on the fire
And say it is nothing at all?

I woke to voices late last night,
I heard an engine roar.
Why do you tell me the things I heard
Were a dream and nothing more?

I heard somebody cry, mother,
In anger or in pain,
But now I ask you why, mother,
You say it was a gust of rain.

Why do you wander about as though
You don’t know what to do?
What has happened to Lulu, mother?
What has happened to Lu?

Charles Causley
Extracted from the Goldsmith London University’s Media Library.

 

The Poet: Charles Causley
  • Born in Launceston, Northern Tasmania, Australia.
  • Joined the destroyer HMS Eclipse as as Ordinary Seaman Coder.
  • Joined the new carrier HMS Glory after HMS Eclipse sank.
  • Retired from active service in 1946 and chose to train as a teacher.
  • Most of his works were about the war he served in.
  • His works were only published and broadcast after the war, when he worked as a teacher.
  • Most of his works gained recognition and was honoured after his retirement.

Sourced from: http://www.warpoets.org/conflicts/world-war-ii/charles-causley/

 

What are the stanzas about?

Stanza 1

The persona questions her mother regarding Lulu’s whereabouts. Lulu is the persona’s elder sister. The persona observes that only an old rag doll was in bed and one shoe was by the side of the bed.

This stanza shows that the persona is oblivious to her sister’s disappearance and frantically asks her Mother for an answer.

 

Stanza 2

The persona further observes that her window is open and its curtains are flapping free. The persona also notices that the money box was missing as there was no dust-buildup in one particular spot on an already dusty shelf.

This stanza shows the attention of the persona to details and the ability to investigate. However, despite these findings, the persona is still unable to figure out what might have possibly happened to Lulu.

 

Stanza 3

When the persona tries to get an answer from her mother regarding her sister’s whereabouts, she notices that her mother is in tears. She also notices that the mother threw a crumpled note into the fireplace but said it was nothing at all.

This stanza shows that the mother is heartbroken and in tears possibly due to her daughter’s disappearance. The mother also threw a crumpled note into the fireplace, and this indicates that there was something very important in the note that the mother did not want anyone else to know about it.

 

Stanza 4

The persona says that she heard voices the night before her sister’s disappearance and a rev of an engine. However, the persona questions her mother why her findings were rejected and that it was all a dream.

This stanza shows that Lulu’s disappearance may have been connected to what has happened the night before. The fact that the persona remembered there were voices late that night and a revving engine indicates that the persona is observant to her surroundings. However, Mother says otherwise, and wants the persona to believe that what she heard was nothing but a dream.

 

Stanza 5

The persona also heard somebody cry the night before Lulu’s disappearance but she is unsure whether it was in pain or in anger. Again however, the Mother wants her to believe that they were nothing but a gust of rain.

This stanza shows that her Mother is rejecting the persona’s findings the second time and wants her to believe that the sounds she heard that night was nothing but a gust of rain. However, there’s now a sense of suspicion whether the Mother is connected to Lulu’s disappearance due to repeated rejection of the persona’s findings regarding her sister’s disappearance.

 

Stanza 6

The persona continues to question her mother.

This stanza shows that the Mother is wandering around as though she does not know what to do and the persona continues to question her mother for an answer to Lulu’s disappearance.

 

So what is the whole poem about then?

This poem has three characters and it is entirely about clues to Lulu’s disappearance. The persona continues to question her Mother regarding Lulu’s disappearance but receives no answer. It is rather bizarre that the Mother rejected the persona’s three very important clues that her disappearance may have been connected to more than one person, that a vehicle was possibly used in connection to Lulu’s disappearance and that the persona heard someone cry in anger or in pain the night before Lulu’s disappearance. The fact that the Mother knows something she does not want to tell the child only increases the suspicion towards the Mother.

There’s no “right way” to understand poem, as long as you can make the examiner believe that your answer is the “right answer,” you get your marks!

There are multiple possibilities to Lulu’s disappearance. Maybe she ran away, maybe she went for war which was against her Mother’s “better judgement,” maybe she went to live with her divorced father, or maybe she eloped with her partner, but nevertheless, if you can provide evidence to your statement and if it makes sense, it is correct. There’s no “right way” to understand poem, as long as you can make the examiner believe that your answer is the “right answer,” you get your marks!

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  1. Thanks Ariv! I love this one!

    Like

    Reply

    1. I’m glad you do, Somebody 🙂 nice name by the way.

      Like

      Reply

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