Essay-style Questions: The Whitsun Weddings

1. Referring to both ideas and imagery, discuss how Larkin presents the importance of love to human experience in The Whitsun Weddings



Responds directly to the question

Establishes that the essay will treat the question using these 3 poems

Love is a key word and value in The Whitsun Weddings. Many
of Larkin's poems describe the difficulty of forming relationships.
In 'Wild Oats' for example, the narrator separates from his girlfriend
after agreeing that he is 'too selfish' and 'easily bored'
to love. Yet the desire for love and its endurance over time are central
to the ideas and imagery of three poems in the collection: 'Love Songs
in Age', 'Faith Healing' and 'An Arundel Tomb'.
'Love Songs in Age'

Remember for each poem to address the key topic, love, and the main things
to which we should refer, ideas and imagery

Treats the imagery, with attention to the detail of language

Treats the ideas

In 'Love Songs in Age', Larkin describes a woman
who is brought to tears by the discovery of old songs. These make her realise
that love has not brought the fulfilment she hoped for when young.

The love songs produce a feeling of youth 'like a spring-woken tree'
- an image of renewed growth and change. 'Love' itself
is connected with images of sun ('bright', brilliance',
'glare') and clouds ('sailing above')...

The romantic notion of love in popular songs is that it will 'solve
and satisfy', but in reality this dream often fails.

'Faith Healing'

Treats the imagery, with attention to the detail of language

Treats the ideas

'Faith healing' depicts the procession of women
queuing to be blessed by an American faith healer...

The imagery describing the impact of the healer's 'loving care'
is of 'spring rain' thawing frozen land. The women are also
compared with children...

This image suggests that the women are seeking human, as much as divine,
love. Larkin concludes that 'in everyone there sleeps / A sense of
life lived according to love.' Most people have not loved, or been
loved enough, and that is the injury which needs healing.

'An Arundel Tomb'

Treats the imagery, with attention to the detail of language

Treats the ideas

'An Arundel Tomb' tells of the mediaeval tomb effigies
of an earl and countess. Unusually, the man is holding his wife's hand...

The 'sharp tender shock' the visitor gets when he sees the
tomb expresses the mixed sensations (soft/hard) conveyed by
intimacy. The image of the couple on the tomb 'linked' through
time suggests that intimacy outlasts history...

Larkin imagines that the earl and countess did not want to be defined
by their gesture of faithfulness. That is, however, what people will remember
them for. Larkin draws the general conclusion: 'what will survive
of us is love'.


Goes back to the question

And adds a little to it

As we have seen, Larkin presents, through ideas and imagery,
the centrality of love to human experience, throughout The Whitsun Weddings.
This is one of the reasons that, despite poems about loneliness, it is not
a bleak book but full of human sympathy.