The Whitsun Weddings, Philip Larkin

Many of the poems in Philip Larkin's 'The Whitsun Weddings' are concerned with themes or templates such as disillusionment, isolation and the passage of time. However, one common factor that connects the majority of his work in this collection is Larkin's seemingly contradictory frame of mind towards women. Although in several poems it can be claimed that Larkin 'dismisses' women as 'insignificant', addititionally there is sufficient research to claim that his portrayal of these is actually indicative of these desirability and ability, particularly within the male gender.

In 'Afternoons, ' Larkin seems to directly disregard ladies in a variety of ways, beginning with the suggestion they are inferior to men - their husbands are occupied in 'skilled trades' whereas the sole function of the ladies is to produce and bring up their children. The first stanza paints a particularly dreary picture of the routine lives of the mothers, with the gloomy starting 'summer is fading' quickly followed by references to leaves falling and the 'hollows of afternoons' which connote the melancholy image of youngsters passing. Considering they are 'young' women, however, may claim that Larkin feels a amount of sympathy towards their plight of little by little being changed by a new technology as they 'set free' their children. The theory that change is an inevitable process, mentioned by natural words such as 'blowing wind, ' 'thickened, ' and 'leaves fall season' may further imply that the speaker's thoughts are not as harsh as they primarily seem. The symbolism of your energy passing present in the name is taken through the entire poem, ending in the rather ambiguous 'something is pushing them/ aside of their own lives, ' to increase the sense that the women are continually taken for granted and also have no control over the direction with their lives. They may be thus rendered insignificant both in the eye of the loudspeaker, who perceives them as inferior to men - located 'behind them' for support - and with regard to life: they may be gradually upbraided, haven't any control over the passage of time and really the only imprint they leave on the entire world is their impatient and expectant children.

However, in both 'Afternoons' and other poems such as 'Self's the Man' and 'Love Songs in Age' it becomes clear that somewhat than simply dismissing women, Larkin is in fact struggling to separate his frame of mind towards women along with his perception of matrimony - a regular dichotomy for Larkin, who Nicholas Marsh identifies to be 'terrified of marrying, and not capable of committing himself, ' due mainly to witnessing the 'horror' of his own parents' matrimony. This dread and negative attitude is mirrored in the terms he uses to depict relationship and marriages, such as 'farcical' and the oxymoronic 'happy funeral' in 'The Whitsun Wedding ceremonies. ' Similarly, the disdain he feels for the regime of domesticity is apparent in 'Self's the Man, ' where the girl is depicted as a prolonged nag: 'he does not have any time at all', 'now she's there all day. ' In 'Love Songs, ' Larkin's mixture of triviality - 'the addresses satisfied her' - and poetic diction -'frank submissive chord' - depict the life span of a female who has been remaining deeply unfulfilled in her widowhood. Like 'Afternoons, ' there's a clear sense of domesticity leaching away the personality, and therefore the human relevance, perhaps, of the woman as time passes - there is absolutely no much longer the 'certainty of time' that is present in children; instead only 'tidy fits' and an 'estateful of cleaning' stay.

Interestingly, there's a sharp contrast between your relatively adult viewpoints in the aforementioned poems, which give a more sedate commentary on the perceived role of women, and the blatant objectification present in others, most notably 'A Analysis of Reading Behaviors' and 'Sunny Prestatyn. ' Even though the latter could be seen as a commentary on the phony, idealised images sold to us by the advertising industry, and interpersonal reaction to it, the imagery and vocabulary used can otherwise be interpreted as a crude portrayal of archetypal male behaviour towards women. Marsh expresses that Larkin himself was 'abusive and contemptuous of women, ' and the poet was widely known for his view that 'all women are ridiculous beings' -both assertions clearly confirmed in 'Prestatyn. ' The actual fact that the lady constantly has things done to her - 'she was slapped up' and 'place. . . astride' - alternatively than being in charge of her activities perhaps suggests a dismissal of women as static beings, the coarse and somewhat disturbing dialect offers a darker perception of women. A lot like in 'Afternoons', a 'hunk of coast' stands 'behind her' as if for support, but as the poem progresses from the subservient image of the girl 'kneeling' (the utilization of 'young lady' itself recommending inferiority) the stanzas quickly cave in to darker male humour: obscenities such as 'huge tits' and a 'fissured crotch' used to deface her image, till she actually is 'stabbed' and torn aside.

On the other palm, the satirical build present in the final stanza of 'Prestatyn' ('she was too best for this life') could allow viewers to make an alternative solution judgement. In the first stanza, the girl on the poster seems shallow and trite: 'laughing' on the sand in virginal 'white satin. ' This image of young ones seems hardly more likely to provoke such a despicable harm, however the words 'kneeling' and 'tautened' also connote erotic provocativeness. In light of the, the girl appears to bring the victimisation after herself - 'figuratively prostituting herself' as it were. The finish of the ultimate stanza, however, subtly seems to mock those (assumedly men) who attempted to "punish" her (either on her behalf efforts to the idealised images of the advertising campaign or for her unattainable sexual innuendo) - in the end all that they had in their power was the capability to 'tear' an image. The replacement unit image of 'Attack Cancer tumor' illustrates this futility, and a degree of sympathy is present in the sensitive observation of any vulnerable 'hands' left out - a body part also focused on in 'Broadcast. '

Another poem which bargains explicitly with Larkin's frame of mind towards women is 'A Analysis of Reading Habits. ' The words is quite childish, with its simplistic, colloquial vocabulary and referrals to comic catalogs -the alliterative 'soiled dogs, ' or cliched 'old right hook. ' This notion is extended in the structure: the enjoyment conveyed in the repetition of 'and' in 'me and my cloak and fangs' is also present in the irregular rhyme scheme, however the initial shock will come in the next stanza with the advantages of rather sadistic intimate fantasies and violent behaviour towards women. This derogatory portrayal of women - 'ripping times, ' 'clubbed with love-making, ' 'broke them up'- seems to suggest that women are entirely there for the pleasure of men, great 'meringue'-like objects to enjoy and used without regard to their individuality: the women are converted into mere things 'deprived of character or mankind. '

Moreover, distinct patterns throughout the collection can be seen to emerge. Although many of the male characters in 'The Whitsun Wedding ceremonies' have names (Mr Bleaney, Arnold, Dockery and a poem dedicated to Sidney Bechet), women are unfailingly dismissed as insignificant through their insufficient them - they are just vaguely recognized as 'her, ' 'she, ' and 'female. ' At best, in 'Outdoors Oats, ' they may be titled 'bosomy' and 'the friend, ' but that hardly shows a sensitivity towards these women - rather, it further degrades them by acknowledging only their physical qualities. Indeed, this poem only briefly (and awkwardly) refers to the 'friend in specifications' as someone to speak to, whereas mention of 'beautiful' as the 'bosomy English rose' is rhythmic, lilting and positive. Furthermore, the previous stanza of the poem mentions 'two snaps' of the stunning woman maintained in the speaker's wallet - such static images of women can also be seen in poems including 'Broadcast' and 'Sunny Prestatyn, ' again lowering women to things alternatively than living, respiration, accessible people.

However, one must look at the social conventions of the time in which Larkin resided. He remarks in 'Crazy Oats' that 'in those days and nights' it was encounters that 'sparked/ the complete shooting-match off, ' indicating the restrictions and emphasis put on courting. This consolidates the tone of sexual frustration that is implied in many of Larkin's poems - particularly the darker ones with the emphasis on man domination and feminine subservience. When seen in this manner, the collection as a entire- with its subtle focus on self-discovery and journeys through life - appears to provide a parallel to Larkin's experience with women. One of Larkin's addicts, Maeve Brennan, commented that, for Larkin at least, 'loving distance is. . . the most appealing relationship one can have with a female. ' Alternatively, therefore, the static images and freeze-frames referenced in several the poems could symbolise either, in Rossen's words 'a metaphor for not being able to communicate with or touch a female, ' or even simply Larkin's way of demonstrating and working with his affections.

Therefore, Larkin's portrayal of women in 'The Whitsun Marriages' is intricate and nuanced. On one hand, Larkin is often dismissive, even derisive at times, of women, characterising them as insignificant and inferior to men. This may clearly be observed in lots of the poems in this collection, significantly in 'Afternoons, ' and 'Broadcast. ' Sometimes, this dismissal moves into more blatant objectification and sadistic dream at the expense of the girl, although often with a slight hint of satire and self-parody, such as in 'Sunny Prestatyn' and 'A Research of Reading Patterns. ' However, we should also take into account the idea that women feature prominently in a number of his works, becoming the centre of his focus. Very often, there will be tender details which point out a more very sensitive area of the poet, including the 'very small' hands, 'gloves' and 'shoes' in 'Broadcast. ' This way, the reader is shown that although Larkin can present a crude and unpalatable depiction of the female gender, equally he is able to present his root feelings in a stark, yet understated, way unique to himself.

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