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“Catrin” and “What has happened to Lulu” Essay

Explore how Gillian Clarke and Charles Causley present the relationship between a parent and child in ‘Catrin’ and ‘What has happened to Lulu?’

Gillian Clarke was born in Cardiff in 1937 she often writes poems about nature and her observations of people. One of the poems she wrote was ‘Catrin.’ This poem in particular portrays the theme of a parent and child relationship and how they battle as the chills grows up. ‘Catrin’ starts off with the birth of the child and how it was a struggle. It later goes on to mention how the fight continues as she gets older and wants to be alone and free. The poem itself is addressed to the daughter Catrin, (because her name is in the title).

The poem begins with the poet saying that she remembers Catrin. The following shows this: ‘I remember you, Child,’ Here, the poet is speaking to the child by pondering about when Catrin was young. Also, the word ‘you’ suggests that Clarke is not only speaking to the child, but to us, as readers as well. This draws you to the poem as it puts you in the role of the child and makes you want to read on. Furthermore, Clarke does not mention the daughters name through-out the poem as she uses it for the title instead. By doing this, she has already addressed the person to whom the poem is about therefore she feels no need to mention her name again.

Clarke sets the first stanza in the past tense to show how this is what has happened before Catrin was born and how even before then there was a battle between them. The poet starts off waiting in a labour ward. This is portrayed in the following: ‘As I stood in a hot, white room,’ The word ‘hot’ suggests a tense heavy atmosphere, which shows her stress and impatience. Here Clarke has used enjambment to suggest movement as she is waiting to give birth. The parent child relationship is portrayed here as Clarke is waiting for her daughter. This shows how the pair depends upon each other as Clarke wants her daughter to come out and stop the pain whereas without Clarke, Catrin wouldn’t be alive.

In addition to this, Clarke goes on to describe how giving birth has changed her life drastically, by describing what she saw out the window. This is shown in stanza one lines three, four and five. ‘At the window watching

The people and cars taking, Turn at the traffic lights.’ The word window represents freedom, which is what Clarke wants. Furthermore, the fact Clarke uses ‘traffic lights’ and ‘cars’, shows how the poet is taking a turn in her life as the cars turn either way. Which suggests how her life can either take a turn for the worse or for the better? Also the colours red, amber and green (colours of traffic lights) suggest how her life was on hold (red), then the waiting in labour (amber), and then go (green), the process she went through giving birth. Also Clarke has used alliteration and enjambment to emphasise how people take their turns to give birth and how it a journey of life that isn’t forgotten.

The poet clearly remembers the daughter’s birth as she repeats the words ‘I remember you.’ By repeating this, it shows how she thinks it was important, the reason she used it is that she wants us to remember it too as it is a curtail part of her life. The parent and child relationship portrayed here is that the mum cares about the child dearly and thinks she is an important part of her life which she wants to remember.

Clarke’s experience of the birth is very tense and difficult. This is portrayed when she says ‘our first fierce confrontation.’ The poet uses alliteration to show how it was tense, as the letter ‘f’ sounds like heavy breathing, like how you would when you are stressed. Also ‘f’ is a very forceful letter which represents her experience of being in labour and giving birth as she has to force the baby out. Furthermore, the word ‘fierce’ suggests how the poet and baby were in a battle for freedom. Also the word ‘first’ suggests that there is going to me more battles in the future, not only one, as this is the first time they have met. This proves that the word ‘first’ can be interrelated in two different ways so that it does not only mean that they are in a confrontation but that it also means they will have further arguments in life. Clarke has used this to foreshadow what is to come in the near future. The relationship portrayed here is very distant and frosty as they both want to be free.

In lines nine-sixteen Clarke goes on to describe the struggle and longing of freedom whilst Clarke was giving birth. The following shows this ‘the tight
Red rope of love which we both

Fought over.’ The ‘red rope is a metaphor of the umbilical cord that they wanted to be cut. Moreover, the colour red has the connotation of love and anger. Which Clarke has used to show the themes of conflict and contrast as it contrasts the ideas of their relationship? Furthermore, Clarke has used the word ‘tight’ to show how mother and daughter were tugging at the ‘red rope’. This suggests that their relationship was tense and strained as they struggle at birth. Also the word ‘fought’ is significant because it shows how times were difficult as they both wanted their own way. This continues as Catrin grows up, which suggests that the relationship between them has always been tense and always will be.

In verse two, Clarke describes her feeling and her daughter’s feelings as their battle in life continues. The following shows this ‘Neither won nor lost the struggle
In the glass tank clouded with feelings
Which changed us both.’ Here, Clarke implies that the conflict between mother and daughter is still occurring as she hasn’t won or lost. Also I noticed how Clarke has set this verse in the present, and the first in the past, to show how there relationship was and now is. Clarke has also used enjambment on these lines to show how they are continuing their journey through life. Furthermore the word ‘struggle’, suggests that Catrin is strong and stubborn person as Clarke is struggling to compete with her.

Clarke has used a metaphor here to encourage the reader to draw a comparison between two seemingly unrelated things, and find similarities between them, as she mentions how they are both in a ‘glass tank clouded by feelings Which changed us both.’ This suggests that they are trapped in a claustrophobic place surrounded by there feeling, rather than water, which is overwhelming them as they can never escape how they feel towards each other. Also, the word ‘clouded’ suggests that how they felt about each other was sometimes unclear and hard to understand. From this I have gathered that their relationship is forced as they don’t really want a relationship but they do because they are mother and daughter.

Furthermore as the verse progress’ Clarke goes on to describe Catrin’s personality and appearance.
‘Still I am fighting
You of, as you stand there
With your straight, strong, long
Brown hair and your rosy

Defiant glare,’ Catrin is shown as a very strong defiant person as her own mum is still battling with her. The rhyme scheme Clarke has used here to describe her daughter is very jagged. The purpose of this is to reflect on the mother child relationship presented here so that their relationship comes across as broken. Moreover, Clarke has used a list of three to describe Catrin’s appearance ‘straight, strong, long Brown hair’. Clarke has used this to make her appearance more memorable like how she remembers. Also, this list of three can come across as imagery as it gives you the image of strength. This helps us as readers to get a clearer understanding of her image because if the visual effect.

Furthermore, Clarke has used sibilance in this section to give the effect of hissing. This can then be linked to the idea that Catrin has a similar personality to the snake as snakes are seen as independent creatures that like there own space and know how to look after them themselves. Also, Catrin is portrayed as a stubborn person as she has a ‘defiant glare’ which shows how she is strong willed and negative as glare is a negative emotion usually shown in disapproval or anger. The relationship shown here is that Catrin seems to be more in control as she has more will power and strength.

Next, Clarke goes on to describe the bond between mother and daughter and how Catrin is tugging at it. The following portrays this ‘bringing up From the heart’s pool that old rope,
Tightening about my life,

Trailing love and conflict,’ The image here is very rich. The main image is of a boat in a harbour, tied to the quay by an old rope which is partly submerged – but which is pulled up out of the water as the boat is tugged at by the tide. It comes up dripping from the water. This suggests the way that every struggle between mother and daughter comes trailing deep. (Their feeling towards each other), ‘From the heart’s pool’. The rope tightens about the mother’s life, constricting it – but also holding it safe, like the boat securely tied to the quay side bollard.

At the end of the poem Catrin asks her mother if she can go skating after dark. ‘As you ask may you skate

In the dark, for one more hour.’ Here Catrin is asking her mother if she make go skating after dark but her mother refuses. Clarke has used this because it is something that a child would usually do as an activity which can show the true meaning of growing up. In addition to this Clarke illustrates Catrin’s growing independence which she longs. The quote ‘for one more hour’ can have many meanings, but from this I interoperate that Clarke is describing not only that Catrin wants to go out after dark, but of the darkness of the womb which she was in before she was born. This can portray the relationship between Clarke and Catrin as it shows how Clarke cares a lot about her daughter as she wants her to be safe as she doesn’t want her daughter to go and skate after dark, as she knows it isn’t safe.

The poem itself has a gentle rhythm which is used to express the love the mother has for the child, however the rhythm is not consistent and regular, as if it was natural, like a conversation or a spontaneous train of thought. The tone of the poem can be expressed in many different ways for example some may see it with tenderness and warmth, to express the mother’s intense love for her daughter, Whereas others may see it with frustration and even some bitterness because of the unending conflict entailed in being Catrin’s mother. This links to the themes of love and conflict.

In ‘What has happened to Lulu?’ the narrator speaks of how she lost a sibling. The narrator is unsure of the situation so feels the need to questions her mother about where she has gone. Like ‘Catrin’, the main theme is parent and child relationship which has disappeared through the vanishing of the girl.

The poem starts with the narrator asking ‘What has happened to Lulu mother? What has happened to Lu?’ Causley has used repetition to emphasise how the narrator is confused and wants her mother to tell her what has happened to her sibling. This repetition also intrigues the reader as it makes them wonder what exactly the mother is going to say. The narrator further goes on to say how there is nothing left of the girl as her bed is empty. ‘There’s nothing in her bed but an old rag-doll And by its side a shoe’. The old rag doll represents how the girl has left her cherishes and memories behind which is all the mother has to remember her. The parent child relationship portrayed here is that the mother has been abandoned by her child which makes us as readers feel sorry for the mum.

The second stanza shows how the girl left her room when she was gone leaving her sibling (the narrator) confused. ‘Why is her window wide, mother, The curtain flapping free, And only a circle on the dusty shelf Where here money box used to be’. This quotation portrays how Lulu may have ran away, escaping through her window as the window was wide. Also, the word ‘window’ suggests freedom which is now where Lulu is escaping from her past which she has left behind. The fact her money box has gone shows how she has taken her money with her which could symbolise how she wanted to start a new life with the money she has. Also, Causley has used a circle moneybox to show how the cycle is never ending, suggesting that Lulu will never come home. Causley has used alliteration here ‘flapping free’ to help us remember it as it is important. This also emphasise the fact that Lulu is gone and is now free. The relationship shown here is very distant as the mother and daughter do not talk and the girl has left without saying goodbye or coming back to visit.

The third stanza goes on to say how the mother feels towards the girl leaving. ‘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’s nothing at all?’ Stanza one and stanza three both start off with ‘why’ to emphasise the state of the narrator and how she is confused. Enjambment is also used in the quote because it shows how the mother is going on a journey without the girl. This quote also shows the state of the mother who is distraught by the situation as a whole.

However the quote can also show how the mother throws the note in the fire which suggests that mother has never listened to her from the start suggesting this is the reason why Lulu has gone. Furthermore, the mother is also seen as quite protective towards the narrator as she will not tell her why Lulu has gone. This can suggest that the mother may be hiding something from the narrator because it may actually be her fault that Lulu has gone. The parent child relationship I gather from this is that the mum never listened to Lulu and did something which drove her away.

Further into the poem the narrator goes on to tell us how she heard crying but was told that it was only wind and rain. ‘I heard somebody cry, mother, in anger in or in pain, But now I ask you why mother, You say it was a gust of rain,’ Here, the narrator clearly cares deeply for Lulu as is very curious of the whereabouts and well being of Lulu. The fact the mother doesn’t tell the narrator why Lulu was crying suggests that she may be hiding something.

To further add to this she hears cries of ‘anger or in pain’ this further emphasises that the mother may have hurt her whilst being angry. This may have been the reason Lulu left which is why the mum may be hiding it from the sibling. The word ‘somebody’ further shows how puzzled the narrator is. The parent and child relationship here is that the mother may be the reason Lulu has gone which shows how the relationship is very unsettled.

The final stanza portrays how the mother doesn’t know what to do. ‘Why do you wonder about as though You don’t know what to do? What has happened to Lulu, mother? What has happened to Lu?’ Here, the narrator continues to question the mother about why she is aimlessly wandering around. This shows how both narrator and mother are confused and no longer know what to do. The fact that the narrator ends the poem the way she starts it as the narrator is in a vicious circle as she ends the same way as she starts still clueless and has no answers to her questions. The parent child relationship still remains the same through out the play, very distant and is going nowhere.

In conclusion ‘What has happened to Lulu?’ and ‘Catrin’ present a parent and child relationship as both mother are very far from their daughters. However, the child in ‘Lulu’ much more distant than the child in ‘Catrin’ as she (Lulu) has left and is nowhere to be seen, however in ‘Catrin’ the young girl is still at home with her mum and hasn’t left her. The poems further differ as ‘What has happened to Lulu?’ is much more emotional as you feel sorry for the narrator and mother, however in ‘Catrin’ the relationship is a lot less emotional as the girl has not left but is battling with her.


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