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Written by Timothy Sexton
Compromising: Larkin's Modern Life
Throughout the canon of Larkin’s most important works runs the distinctive absence of engage with social rituals common and familiar to so many as a way of coping with the brutal realities of mundane existence. Larkin’s verse is short on some of the most traditional subject and topics of poetry since there has been such a thing a poetry: women to whom he expresses love, religion and spiritual beliefs which center one’s morality and even those occasional opportunities to thumb one’s nose at the grunt work of life. Larkin’s famous dramatic monologue present the portrait of a man who seems to have resigned himself to the fact that certain compromises must be in order to get by and you might as well as accept that fact rather than seek way to fight against or work around it.
Predetermined Destinations Arrived at Without Choice
Part of accepting that compromises must be made to endure is another consistent thematic strain: how most people create the illusion that they have any real choices and settle in for the long haul with accepting that illusion is reality. In the absence of choice and free will to make it, then, Larkin’s view is one that consistently positions most people as unalterably predestined to live out the life they are living not because they choose to, but because compromise and the willingness to sacrifice that they bring has made that life inevitable and unavoidable.
The Fall of the British Empire
The ironic alienation, the distancing from the fail trappings of colonialism and the bitter skepticism toward the possibility of hope and the illusion of choice that dominate Larkin’s poetic motivations can all be connected in one way or another to the circumstances of the timing of his birth; an example of how events beyond one’s capacity to choose can determine the future of an individual based on the collective fates of the past. Larkin was born in Coventry, England in 1922. The ravages of the first World War and the long-delayed arrival of the bill England had no choice but to pay to cover the unforeseen high cost of colonialist imperialism meant that the England in which he came of age and grew to become a famous poet was almost unrecognizable from the England in which writers from Dryden to Keats to Wilde had lived. For a firm believer in the notion that one’s destiny is chosen for them, being part of the first generation of poets to never really know the British Empire as a true empire anymore could not avoid working its way into his thematic repository.
Larkin at times seems almost obsessed with analyzing and examining the value that common social rituals really have at their core. For most of his career, his poetry to confirm a believe that social rituals designed to bring coherence to the interconnectedness of human relationships was essentially devoid of any significant meaning and constructed primarily upon a foundation of simply trying to avoid isolation and alienation at any cost. The appearance of his collection titled High Windows in 1974 gave new indication that late in life Larkin had finally managed to come around to admitting that these small rites that bind society together can do more than merely ensure society coheres, it can on a minor level and on occasion actually create meaning for those who depend upon them.
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Philip Larkin: Poems study guide contains a biography of author Philip Larkin, over 100 quiz and test questions, major themes, a list of characters, and a full summary and analysis Philip Larkin's poetry.