The Whitsun Weddings Philip Larkin English Literature Essay

Many of the verse forms in Philip Larkin ‘s ‘The Whitsun Weddings ‘ are concerned with subjects such as disenchantment, isolation and the transition of clip. However, one common factor that connects the bulk of his work in this aggregation is Larkin ‘s apparently contradictory attitude towards adult females. Although in many of these verse forms it can be claimed that Larkin ‘dismisses ‘ adult females as ‘insignificant ‘ , there is besides sufficient grounds to propose that his portraiture of them is in fact declarative mood of their desirableness and power, peculiarly over the male gender.

In ‘Afternoons, ‘ Larkin seems to straight ignore adult females in a assortment of ways, get downing with the suggestion that they are inferior to work forces – their hubbies are occupied in ‘skilled trades ‘ whereas the exclusive map of the adult females is to bring forth and convey up their kids. The first stanza pigments a peculiarly drab image of the everyday lives of the female parents, with the glooming gap ‘summer is melting ‘ rapidly followed by mentions to foliages falling and the ‘hollows of afternoons ‘ which connote the melancholic image of young person passing. Sing these are ‘young ‘ adult females, nevertheless, may propose that Larkin feels a grade of understanding towards their predicament of bit by bit being replaced by a new coevals as they ‘set free ‘ their kids. The thought that this alteration is an inevitable procedure, indicated by natural words such as ‘wind, ‘ ‘thickened, ‘ and ‘leaves autumn ‘ may farther connote that the talker ‘s feelings are non every bit rough as they ab initio appear. The symbolism of clip go throughing present in the rubric is carried through the full verse form, stoping in the instead equivocal ‘something is forcing them/ to the side of their ain lives, ‘ to add to the sense that the adult females are continually taken for granted and have no control over the way of their lives. They are therefore rendered undistinguished both in the eyes of the talker, who sees them as inferior to work forces – standing ‘behind them ‘ for support – and with respect to life: they are bit by bit upbraided, have no control over the transition of clip and the lone imprint they leave on the universe is their impatient and anticipant kids.

However, in both ‘Afternoons ‘ and other verse forms such as ‘Self ‘s the Man ‘ and ‘Love Songs in Age ‘ it becomes clear that instead than merely disregarding adult females, Larkin is really fighting to divide his attitude towards adult females with his perceptual experience of matrimony – a changeless duality for Larkin, who Nicholas Marsh describes as being ‘terrified of marrying, and incapable of perpetrating himself, ‘ chiefly due to witnessing the ‘horror ‘ of his ain parents ‘ matrimony. This fright and negative attitude is reflected in the linguistic communication he uses to picture matrimony and nuptialss, such as ‘farcical ‘ and the oxymoronic ‘happy funeral ‘ in ‘The Whitsun Weddings. ‘ Similarly, the contempt he feels for the modus operandi of domesticity is evident in ‘Self ‘s the Man, ‘ in which the adult female is depicted as a relentless scold: ‘he has no clip at all ‘ , ‘now she ‘s there all twenty-four hours. ‘ In ‘Love Songs, ‘ Larkin ‘s combination of pettiness – ‘the screens pleased her ‘ – and poetic enunciation -‘frank submissive chord ‘ – picture the life of a adult female who has been left profoundly unrealized in her widowhood. Like ‘Afternoons, ‘ there is a clear sense of domesticity leaching off the individualism, and therefore the human significance, possibly, of the adult female as clip passes – there is no longer the ‘certainty of clip ‘ that is present in young person ; alternatively merely ‘tidy tantrums ‘ and an ‘estateful of rinsing ‘ remain.

Interestingly, there is a crisp contrast between the comparatively mature point of views in the aforesaid verse forms, which offer a more staid commentary on the sensed function of adult females, and the blazing objectification nowadays in others, most notably ‘A Study of Reading Habits ‘ and ‘Sunny Prestatyn. ‘ Although the latter could be seen as a commentary on the false, idealized images sold to us by the advertisement industry, and societal reaction to it, the imagination and linguistic communication used can instead be interpreted as a petroleum portraiture of archetypical male attitudes towards adult females. Marsh states that Larkin himself was ‘abusive and disdainful of adult females, ‘ and the poet was widely known for his position that ‘all adult females are stupid existences ‘ -both statements clearly demonstrated in ‘Prestatyn. ‘ The fact that the miss systematically has things done to her – ‘she was slapped up ‘ and ‘set… astride ‘ – instead than being in control of her actions possibly indicates a dismissal of adult females as inactive existences, yet the coarse and slightly distressing linguistic communication offers a darker perceptual experience of adult females. Similar to in ‘Afternoons ‘ , a ‘hunk of seashore ‘ bases ‘behind her ‘ as if for support, but as the verse form progresses from the subservient image of the miss ‘kneeling ‘ ( the usage of ‘girl ‘ itself proposing lower status ) the stanzas rapidly give manner to darker male temper: lewdnesss such as ‘huge breasts ‘ and a ‘fissured fork ‘ used to disfigure her image, until finally she is ‘stabbed ‘ and lacerate apart.

On the other manus, the satirical tone nowadays in the concluding stanza of ‘Prestatyn ‘ ( ‘she was excessively good for this life ‘ ) could let readers to do an alternate opinion. In the first stanza, the miss on the posting seems shallow and banal: ‘laughing ‘ on the sand in virginal ‘white satin. ‘ This image of young person seems barely likely to arouse such a ugly onslaught, but the words ‘kneeling ‘ and ‘tautened ‘ besides connote sexual provocativeness. In visible radiation of this, the miss seems to convey the exploitation upon herself – ‘figuratively prostituting herself ‘ as it were. The terminal of the concluding stanza, nevertheless, subtly seems to mock those ( assumedly work forces ) who attempted to “ penalize ” her ( either for her parts to the idealized images of the advertizement or for her unachievable sexual insinuation ) – in the terminal all they had in their power was the ability to ‘tear ‘ a image. The replacing image of ‘Fight Cancer ‘ illustrates this futility, and a grade of understanding is present in the stamp observation of a vulnerable ‘hand ‘ left behind – a organic structure portion besides focused on in ‘Broadcast. ‘

Another verse form which deals explicitly with Larkin ‘s attitude towards adult females is ‘A Study of Reading Habits. ‘ The linguistic communication is rather infantile, with its simplistic, conversational vocabulary and mentions to comic books -the alliterative ‘dirty Canis familiariss, ‘ or cliched ‘old right hook. ‘ This thought is continued in the construction: the exhilaration conveyed in the repeat of ‘and ‘ in ‘me and my cloak and Fangs ‘ is besides present in the irregular rime strategy, but the initial daze comes in the 2nd stanza with the debut of instead sadistic sexual phantasies and violent behavior towards adult females. This derogative portraiture of adult females – ‘ripping times, ‘ ‘clubbed with sex, ‘ ‘broke them up’- seems to propose that adult females are entirely at that place for the pleasance of work forces, sweet ‘meringue’-like objects to be enjoyed and consumed without respect to their individualism: the adult females are turned into mere objects ‘deprived of character or humanity. ‘

Furthermore, distinguishable forms throughout the aggregation can be seen to emerge. Although a figure of the male characters in ‘The Whitsun Weddings ‘ have names ( Mr Bleaney, Arnold, Dockery and a verse form dedicated to Sidney Bechet ) , adult females are unfailingly dismissed as insignificant through their deficiency of them – they are merely mistily recognised as ‘her, ‘ ‘she, ‘ and ‘girl. ‘ At best, in ‘Wild Oats, ‘ they are titled ‘bosomy ‘ and ‘the friend, ‘ but that barely shows a sensitiveness towards these adult females – instead, it further degrades them by admiting merely their physical properties. Indeed, this verse form merely briefly ( and awkwardly ) refers to the ‘friend in eyeglasses ‘ as person to speak to, whereas mention to ‘beautiful ‘ as the ‘bosomy English rose ‘ is rhythmic, lilting and positive. Furthermore, the last stanza of this poem references ‘two catchs ‘ of the beautiful adult female kept in the talker ‘s billfold – such inactive images of adult females can besides be seen in verse forms including ‘Broadcast ‘ and ‘Sunny Prestatyn, ‘ once more cut downing adult females to objects instead than life, external respiration, accessible people.

However, one must besides take into history the societal conventions of the clip in which Larkin lived. He remarks in ‘Wild Oats ‘ that ‘in those yearss ‘ it was faces that ‘sparked/ the whole shooting-match off, ‘ bespeaking the limitations and accent placed on wooing. This consolidates the tone of sexual defeat that is implied in many of Larkin ‘s verse forms – peculiarly the darker 1s with their accent on male domination and female subservience. When viewed in this manner, the aggregation as a whole- with its elusive accent on self-discovery and journeys through life – seems to supply a parallel to Larkin ‘s experiences with adult females. One of Larkin ‘s lovers, Maeve Brennan, commented that, for Larkin at least, ‘romantic distance is… the most desirable relationship one can hold with a adult female. ‘ Alternatively, hence, the inactive exposure and freeze-frames referenced in a figure of the verse forms could symbolize either, in Rossen ‘s words ‘a metaphor for non being able to pass on with or touch a adult female, ‘ or even merely Larkin ‘s manner of showing and covering with his fondnesss.

Therefore, Larkin ‘s portraiture of adult females in ‘The Whitsun Weddings ‘ is complex and nuanced. On one manus, Larkin is frequently dismissive, even derisive at times, of adult females, characterizing them as insignificant and inferior to work forces. This can clearly be seen in many of the verse form in this aggregation, significantly in ‘Afternoons, ‘ and ‘Broadcast. ‘ At times, this dismissal moves into more blazing objectification and sadistic phantasy at the disbursal of the adult female, although frequently with a little intimation of sarcasm and self-parody, such as in ‘Sunny Prestatyn ‘ and ‘A Study of Reading Habits. ‘ However, we must besides take into history the fact that adult females feature conspicuously in a assortment of his plants, going the Centre of his focal point. Very frequently, there will be stamp inside informations which indicate a more sensitive side of the poet, such as the ‘tiny ‘ custodies, ‘gloves ‘ and ‘shoes ‘ in ‘Broadcast. ‘ In this mode, the reader is shown that although Larkin can show a petroleum and unpalatable word picture of the female gender, every bit he is able to show his implicit in emotions in a stark, yet understated, manner alone to himself.