Areas of Study (new)

Areas of Study (new)

The effects of time and change are a recurring theme in Larkin's poetry. In 'Love Songs in Age' a woman rediscovers old songs that bring back painful memories of youthful hope. In 'Reference Back' it is a jazz record that recalls for Larkin an old relationship. 'MCMXIV' (1914) imagines Britain before the outbreak of World War One began a modern age of destruction and uncertainty. 'An Arundel Tomb' describes the effigies of a mediaeval couple that have survived to the present time, though not remembered for the reasons they had foreseen.

Reading MCMXIV, make a list of the ways in which the 1914 scene Larkin imagines is different from modern times. How do you think Larkin feels about the present day compared with the past?

Look at the poem 'Reference Back'. Pay particular attention to the final stanza. What do you think it is trying to say about memory and regret? Can you make a connection between this poem and 'Love Songs in Age'?

'Afternoons' and 'Toads Revisited' are both set in the afternoon, in a park. Compare and contrast these two poems and their thoughts on aging.

'An Arundel Tomb' considers a representation of two people through a long period of history. What changes and what stays the same? Can you think of any reasons why Larkin chose to end his collection with this poem?

Larkin contrasts our inner lives with the outer lives that we lead in society. The gap between reality and imagination can be the source of both pathos and humour. 'Love Songs in Age' brings out the ways in which reality disappoints romantic visions of love. 'A Study in Reading Habits' brings out both comedy and sadness in the speaker's reliance on adopting roles from books.

How does the speaker in 'A Study in Reading Habits' use literature to escape from reality?

'Sunny Prestatyn' depicts a girl in a poster, which has been defaced. How does the language change from stanza 1 (describing the advertisement) to stanza 2 (describing the graffiti)?

The poems in this collection explore mixed feelings about marriage - interest, but also a deep anxiety. 'The Whitsun Weddings' observes the moment when 'a dozen marriages got under way'. The following poem, 'Self's the Man', is cynical about the pressures of being a husband, and wonders whether staying a bachelor is really such a selfish choice. In 'Dockery and Son', the speaker is shocked by the news that a younger man, once a fellow university student, already has a teenage son - this forces him to consider his own choice to have stayed single.

What fears does 'Self's the Man' express about marriage?

How does 'The Whitsun Weddings' evoke the change that marriage brings?

In 'Water', Larkin plays with the idea of inventing a religion. In 'Faith Healing' he watches the rapture of women touched by a faith healer, and wonders if the common injury that needs to be healed is a lack of love. 'Ignorance' is not directly about religion, but expresses our lack of knowledge concerning life's purpose.

How does Larkin present the faith healing ceremony?

What is new about Larkin's invented religion, and what reminds you of conventional worship?

Do these poems seem to you to convey religious belief or religious doubt?

Other Areas of Study:

The importance/endurance of love

Isolation and loneliness

The changing landscape of England

Fear of dying