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Reading Habits of Philip Larkin - Essay Example

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The paper “Reading Habits of Philip Larkin” will focus on one of Larkin's best-known poems. Larkin is not an optimist. It is hard to think of a poet who seems less friendly or more disappointed by life. He is an expert poet and the uses he puts his language to can be enthralling…
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Reading Habits of Philip Larkin
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Download file to see previous pages In addition, he is an expert poet and the uses he puts his language to can be enthralling. His use of irony is especially significant. The poem “Study of Reading Habits” is a great example of this in practice. “Study of Reading Habits” is not one of Larkin's best-known poems and it does not rank among his best. That said, it is clever and curious piece which provides insight into the mind of the poet and is very consistent with his personality. To begin with, there are a few important things to note about this poem. For starters there is a rhyme and metrical pattern. The rhyme pattern is ABCBAC. This is an important thing to note because the formal rhyme aspect clashes with the informal language such as “dirty dogs,” “ripping times,” and “dude.” The consequence of this clash is ironic. The reader immediately senses that the author is being ironic and that there is another layer of meaning behind what he is saying. He leads the reader down a certain path, before revealing his intention to say something else. He is in a way mocking the idea of the male as hero (Cooper, 52). So what is Larkin saying exactly? The theme of the poem is imagination. He is saying that imagination is only good for so long before it peters out and reality takes over. When he was young he enjoyed reading books. He could be anyone in a book, a hero, a villain; his imagination made it all possible. But as time proceeded and he got older, his life became boring and the effort required to imagine a different version of himself became too much to bear (Meyer, 412). He ends the poem by saying, Just get drunk instead of reading books. The final lines are meant to be ironic, or a joke, but they have an ambiguity to them. The speaker appears to have given up on life and the imagination. The oblivion of alcohol is better than reading. Reading was once a “cure” for the speaker. It saved him from the boringness of his life; now it only confirms the boringness. Of course, this begs the question, why write a poem about this? That too indicates the author is being ironic. He drives the reader to question and consider their own attitudes without revealing his own in exact detail. This is a clever, ironic technique to use. This poem is typical of Larkin's work in its self-deprecation (Rossen, 1). Many of his poems talk about the tedium and difficulty of life, especially in the light of mortality. He frequently writes about disappointment. Here there are not a lot of poetic devices being used. There is only one real metaphor, comparing women to meringues. This suggests that the speaker does not really have any serious relationships with women and that his life is empty. He says as much in the final stanza of the poem. It is clear that Larkin enjoys being rebellious. A number of his poems used the f-word, an unheard of vulgarity in the work of English poetry until he began to do it. Clearly, this iconoclasm endears him to people. Many people would be thrilled to read the line, “Get stewed/Books are a load of crap.” Not only is it funny, it is highly unexpected from a famous poet. This is not supposed to be the subject of poetry, but in Larkin's hands it definitely becomes it. Throughout his work, he uses irony and unexpected ideas to break through the reader's defences and develop important ideas. The title of the poem is clearly intended to be ironic as it is too formal for what follows.  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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