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Wild Oats & Afternoons: A Comparitive Essay

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Introduction

"My parent's marriage left me with two convictions: that human beings should not live together and that children should be taken away from their parents at an early age" One of Larkin's most famous quotes is "My parent's marriage left me with two convictions: that human beings should not live together and that children should be taken away from their parents at an early age". This quote begins to reveal Larkin's attitudes and opinions which are portrayed throughout his works. Further exploration of Larkin's use of language, structure and form leads to an interesting insight into his personal beliefs and the beliefs of influential others around him. Wild Oats is a short poem by Philip Larkin which is principally about failed love. There are actually two loves, one unspoken, and one unsuccessful, also there is a period of 20 years, humour, pathos, and irony. The poem takes the form of a short story in which the persona recalls the meeting of two girls, one of whom is strikingly beautiful, one of whom is less so. He manages to have a long term relationship with the less desirable one which ultimately fails, probably because he always longed for the exterior delights of the prettier one, and still does. This follows Larkin's ideas of women, and how they are only good for one thing. ...read more.

Middle

This has the appearance of a serious relationship, but there is no marriage, their meetings are "unknown to the clergy" and his ring is returned. Larkin does not like the idea of marriage, and once said "...marriage seems a revolting institution, unless the parties have enough money to keep reasonably distant from each other - imagine sharing a bedroom with a withered old woman!" This quote is typical of Larkin, and clearly displays his views on marriage and how pointless he thinks it is. During the time that the persona is with the "girl in specs", he "meets beautiful twice" and feels that she finds him ridiculous. Again the use of enjambment at lines fifteen to sixteen emphasise the hurt caused by "Bosomy Rose." The final stanza deals firstly with the bitter break up with the second choice. "Five rehearsals" is a concise but telling way of describing the untidy end to this doomed relationship, a turn of phrase which leaves much to the imagination but isn't hard to picture. He admits his failings and sweeps what must have been a major portion of his life's experience to one side with the poignant line, "Well, useful to get that learnt." The irony emphasises his bitterness at the whole, useless episode, which is also reflective of Larkin's ideas on how women are merely sex objects and how their opinions do not matter. ...read more.

Conclusion

The title 'Afternoons' symbolises the point in their lives that these women have reached: not yet the evening of old age, but no longer the morning of childhood, either. Their 'summer is fading', as Larkin puts it, a second symbolic use of time in the poem. Larkin uses a number of images of fading or ending: the end of the day, the end of summer, the falling leaves, the memories of their wedding, the fading of their courting-places, their beauty, control over their own lives. But Larkin contrasts this with images of the new: the newness of the recreation ground (and, by implication, the new estate), the newness of the women as mothers, the newness of the lovers taking over the old courting-places, the unripeness of the acorns. Newness is an unattractive idea in the poem, a poignant contrast with the lives the women find slipping from them. The afternoons for them are 'hollows' - an ambiguous word suggesting both welcome shelter (from either the domestic chores behind them or the approaching evening ahead) and hollowness, emptiness. The poem is full of verbs ending in '-ing', suggesting the gradualness with which this change is creeping over them; for instance, in the final two lines of the poem Larkin is no more specific than to write 'something' is pushing them. For them, as for all of us, it is happening without anyone really noticing. ...read more.

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