Saturday, 16 April 2016


The Poem

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?

Meaning of Lines

Stanza 1
  • The persona is questioning her mother about the mysterious and sudden disappearance of Lulu. An old rag doll and a shoe was left behind 

    Stanza 2
    • The persona saw that the windows are wide opened and the curtains are "flapping free" in the wind. The persona also notice her money-box on the dusty shelf is gone.

    Stanza 3

    • The persona asks the mother why she is hiding her tears. The mother crumples up a note (most probably from Lulu) and throws it into the fire. Mother then tells her child that it is nothing at all. The persona does not believe her.
    Stanza 4
    • The persona tells that she was awakened by "voices late last night" and heard the sounds of an "engine roar", probably a car starting up and being driven away. The mother lies that the child was only dreaming.

    Stanza 5
    • The persona insists that she had heard someone cry "in anger or in pain". The mother says it was just "a gust of rain".

    Stanza 6
    • Puzzled about the mother's distraught behavior, the narrator wants to know why the mother is pacing about, uncertain what to do. The use of "Lu" is an affectionate shortened form of "Lulu

    What Has Happened to Lulu?
    Subject matter
    It is a poem told in a child’s voice about his older sister running away.
    A child is asking his mother what has happened to his sister, Lulu. There is nothing in her room, and her money-box has gone, with only an open window and an old rag-doll left behind. His mother is crying and burning a note. He thinks he heard voices and a car in the middle of the night, but his mother tells him he was only dreaming.

    Form and structure
    The poem is a ballad. written in four line stanzas where the second and fourth lines rhyme. This regular and simple form seems appropriate for the voice of the narrator, which is of a young child.
    It is a first person dramatic monologue that is addressed to the mother of the narrator. It is almost entirely written in questions, both reflecting the age of the speaker and his puzzlement at what has happened to his sister. The form suggests the child’s innocence, while allowing the reader to read between the lines and understand what has happened.

    Language and Imagery

    The image of the abandoned bed is the main one, described by the child narrator. The inclusion of childhood objects such as a rag-doll and a money-box emphasise the youth and innocence of the run-away Lulu. They are contrasted with the roar of the car engine heard in the night and the grown-up world that the narrator does not understand, emphasised by the constant questions. The curtain can be seen as a metaphor for Lulu’s new freedom, contrasted by the dust on the shelf that represents her previous life.

    The doubling of the sound in ‘Lulu’, together with the high level of repetition of both the name and its shortening in the poem, create a strong echo of the sound – which is also the rhymed sound in the first and last stanza. This is quite a childish sound, and helps to create the plaintive note in the child’s questioning.

    Attitudes, themes and ideas

    The poem takes an approach that makes the reader work to figure out what has happened. We have to piece together the clues given in the poem. This is in contrast to the apparent simplicity of the poem provided by the ballad format and the child’s voice. Doing this also puts the reader in the position of the child, who does not understand what is going on. We, like the narrator, have more questions than answers. The tone is one of puzzlement.

    What Has Happened to Lulu? 

    It deals with themes of grief and love. The mother is grieving over her lost child. The fact that the child has run away does not make the grief less significant. The confusion of the narrator about his or her parent’s reaction also tells us something about the nature of grief.The poem also considers how we deal with children, in dismissing what they have heard or seen. The child narrator has some valid knowledge of what has happened, but his mother tells him he dreamed it. The poem raises the question of how the child can react, when he has been told nothing is the matter, when clearly it is. Ironically the mother does not know what to do, as the final stanza makes clear.


    ·         Probably in England as the word "money-box" is a typical British word.
    • Lulu's room
    • The fireplace
    • In the past
    1. The end of childhood and the loss of innocence
    • Lulu is probably a young teenager. 
    • She ran away based on the note that her mother crumpled.
    • She took her savings "money-box" to start a new life with a man who drove her off in a "engine roar".
    • She left her childhood behind.
    2. Parent-child relationship
    • The mother and Lulu relationship could have been a tense and strained one.
    • Lulu is a rebellious teenager.
    • She dislikes her mother's restrictions on her freedom and emerging interest in the opposite sex.
    • She keeps secrets from her mother.
    • The mother and narrator relationship is less dramatic.
    • The narrator is obedient and respectful to the mother.
    • The narrator loves the mother very much and observe her pain and distress.
    3. Grief and love
    • The mother is grieving over the loss of her child, Lulu.
    • The mother clearly loves Lulu.
    • The narrator loves the sister as she called her by pet name "Lu".
    • The narrator is worried about the sudden disappearance of the elder sister


    1. permission to use ur notes..please.thanks.

    2. Tq.. I will use it #spm tomorrow 8november

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. thanks for sharing. Can i use it to teach my students. By the way, I am a new English teacher.

    5. thank you. This very helpful for us..but im confusing what actually happened to lulu?

      1. The poem does not explicitly explain that. You will have to speculate, based on what was narrated. She could have run away. And since it appeared that a car came to the house, she could have left with a friend, or even someone who had persuaded her to leave with him. As long as your speculation is reasonable, it will be accepted as correct.

    6. what does the old rag doll symbolise?

    7. Why there was a shoe beside Lulu's bed?