Philip Larkin: Poems

Wit and Humor in Larkin's Poems: Ambulances and The Building 12th Grade

Larkin’s poetry reflects a certain dark humor, with an often-witty conveyance of a powerful message. There is certainly control and elegance in Larkin’s work; the subject matter is apposite and therefore has an impact on his reader rather than an expression of elegance in the traditional sense. There is elegance in the brutality of his messages in both ‘Ambulances’ and ‘The Building’, but to what extent are these comments powerful and relevant enough to be considered ‘valued’, and how far can they be said to be patterned and controlled?

A large fraction of Larkin’s wit lies in the intelligence of his perspective on his subject matter. A text is undoubtedly regarded to hold literary value when the subject matter is considered serious, perhaps dealing with moral and philosophical topics of acknowledged importance. Given that both poems I have chosen question the purpose of life and the inescapable truth of death, this confirms the seriousness that renders them valued. For example, in ‘Ambulances’, the moral and philosophical approach he takes can relate to the way Larkin thinks of the dying patient as they experience “the sudden shut of loss Round something nearly at an end.” At this point he sympathises with their fear. The...

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