Larkin’s Poetry Is Predominantly Pessimistic
How far do you agree? Larkins writing is largely pessimistic because of his inability to accept change throughout the era of his writing, he’s bitter character largely reflects personas in his poems for example Mr. Bleaney, whilst in others he prefers to mock those who lead alternative lifestyles to his own. Although his writing has a heavily pessimistic style to it, more of his character make-up is revealed. I feel we can see more clearly Larkins emotional un-clarity with the idea of being alone.
It is this obscured view of reality that raises the question as to the sureness of his pessimism. Whilst I don’t doubt Larkins hatred for women, marriage and consumerism I question the reasons why. Larkin shows his pessimism by revealing his outsider position in society. In Dockery and Son the repition of “No son, no wife, no house” states the external expectation of society, however the persona contrasts what he actually wants by the absence of all these things being “natural” to him. Despite this the use of “quite” doesn’t fully convince the reader that he accepts his outsider status.
It could be said that Larkin has not so much an aspiration, but a fascination for the norm. Similarly there is a feeling of distance in Here as Larkin describes the “Frinton folk” who “Put him up” for the summer. The use of fricative is showing an immediate lack of intimacy as the literary device uses harsh, sharp words. The vague description of “Folk” further confirms his lack of desire for family. Larkins clever use of words “put him up” have connotations of the family having to put up with him.
Larkins decision to have the family reciprocating that lack of compassion could have more personal implications of the fear of being rejected, should he choose to attempt to begin a relationship. Likewise in Dockery and Son Larkin places a statement “I catch my train” next to a negative verb “ignored. ” This displays how this seemingly normal task is overthought as there is no expectation to be acknowledged on a train. Larkin shows a level of possessiveness at the thought of being alone despite never openly admitting it.
In addition Larkin presents his pessimism by taking the beauty out of everything. In Mr. Bleaney Larkin writes, “flowered curtains, thin and frayed” he juxtaposes these two phrases to emphasize the clear difference in description. I feel here Larkin is reflecting situations in reality by giving the reader a positive image and immediately contradicts that statement with the following line. Here Larkin mocks the reader for feeling a sense of optimism, this is an intentional warning as Larkin suggests optimism is not imminent in reality.
Also in Dockery and Son Larkin associates clouds with being “thick and close” the decision to describe clouds in this way is impacting as it goes against out usual expectations. While this reflects Larkins choice to live to opposite way to majority of society it could also refer to the oppressive nature of the population. Larkins use of fricative in Mr. Bleaney when describing the “Frigid wind” and “Fusty bed” first gives the reader an insight into Larkins forbidding and unsympathetic personality. However whilst this is obviously the case there are implications of a lack of sexual use for the bed, hence the “fusty” description.
In addition whilst we normally associate a bed with relaxation, luxury and intimacy Larkin simply uses the word “bed” as id he has none of these familiar feelings. However the fact that he has mentioned a bed more than once highly suggests this lack of sexual intimacy is not fully accepted by Larkin, one could even say he is disturbed by this deprivation. Once again Larkin goes against our associations to the colour red. By placing it in a list it reduces the significance of a colour we associate with love and romance.
I feel the use of the colour red was a conscious one by Larkin as he again trys to reduce people’s aspirations, only this time it’s towards love. Here I think Larkin is showing his pessimism by antagonising the audience by taunting them, know most readers with own commercialised items, such as “red kitchen ware” However in the last stanza oh Here Larkin uses sibilance to describe an “Unfenced existence, facing the sun” which seems fairly optimistic despite being slightly ambiguous as to the location, its unclear weather its reality or fantasy, which closely mirrors Larkins conflict between pessimism and optimism.
Finally Larkin frequently mocks other people in his writing possibly to assure himself of his views. For example in Here Larkins use of harsh sounding syllables “Grim head-scarfed wives” is accentuating his pessimism. Men often associate the female form with beauty and here Larkin defies this completely. It raises the question as to weather or not Larkin is so anti-family simply because he can’t sustain a relationship for long enough. This would coincide with the mocking stance he takes on when writing Mr. Bleaney.
The onomatopoeic use of “Jabbering” confirms Mr. Bleaneys desire to be alone by the belittling of a large part of society. Whilst this may seem bleak to the reader, company seems to be irritating to Mr. Bleaney. This is interesting as some people would argue that in Mr. Bleaney Larkin is trying to create a meaning for himself. However I disagree and believe Larkin creates a bleak existence for Mr. Bleaney as he “Stayed in the whole time” to reflect his own life. Here Larkin is making a statement to the reader by acknowledging the fact that he is isolated.