• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Philip Larkin's Church Going.

Extracts from this document...


Regina Sloutsky 12/17/03 C Block English Philip Larkin's Church Going reveals his views on religion and the value of the church through describing a biker's encounter with a church he often passes. Larkin shows the meaning of Christianity and its place in society by contrasting its physical and spiritual aspects. As church-goers attempt to explain life, he questions their sincerity, and the reasoning behind venerating a space, which is merely physical. Although Larkin acknowledges a "gravitating" pull to the Church, he is nonetheless skeptical of its power to explain the meaning of life. In the first stanza, Larkin describes his first hesitant entrance into the church, in which he feels strangely uncomfortable. Larkin relies on assonance to depict a vivid image of the church's interior. The words "door thud shut," "sprawling of flowers," "small neat organ," and "tense, musty," each reflect the meaning. The period after "thud shut" also emphasizes the sound of the door closing, and the feeling of entrapment in the church. The punctuation at the end of the stanza is also similar to the feelings evoked, with an unusual break after "I take off," leaving the reader with a possible interpretation of the biker taking off to see the remainder of the church, and then clarifying by continuing in the next line to explain that he is in fact taking his cycle clips off instead of a hat. Larkin mocks the church's religious meaning by describing strictly its visual aspects, and labeling it as "another church: matting, seats, and stone;" cold and simple words that are pertinent to any building. ...read more.


As he poses the possibility of letting "the rest rent-free to rain and sheep," Larkin shows the ultimate dominance of nature over religion. Thus, he reveals his perspective on religion; its relative phoniness and parallel to superstition. Larkin is convinced that nature will take its course regardless of religion, and that the future is predetermined. Through the use of alliteration, Larkin allows the stanza to flow and thus shows the reader the simplicity of leaving religion, and the plain, fast life that it will leave behind. The "parchment, plate, and pyx," as well as "let the rest rent-free to rain" both serve to make the stanza have a smooth sound. The pause that occurs from the line break after "if we shall keep/a few cathedrals" is an important characteristic of Larkin's poetry. Until the reader reaches the next line, there is a different meaning to the phrase "if we shall keep," in which Larkin ponders the human capacity to survive without religion. However, he brings the reader back the physical, discussing the cathedrals and their interiors, avoiding the issue of religion. In the next stanza, Larkin continues his consideration of religion's future. After the downfall of the churches, Larkin mentions that "dubious" women will come. By using the word "dubious," Larkin shows that those that currently rely on religion are uncertain, and are searching for a way to explain life, and therefore use Christianity as a means of hope and explanation. ...read more.


In the final stanza, Larkin personifies "compulsions" to show that people are merely using the church as a means of justifying their destinies. He implies the inexistence of destiny; that they are impulses which humans are apt to label as inevitability. By using the word "gravitating," Larkin implies that this pull is not a willful act, but rather something that we cannot control. Larkin goes back to the idea of superstition when he explains that people see an appeal in churches is their supposed power, which is in reality an excuse for viewing Christianity as a guide. Larkin refutes the transforming power of traditional Christian faith, yet affirms the sacramental power churches hold on human imagination. In them, he finds his hunger or yearning for the mysterious and the secret most nearly answered: "some will forever be surprising / A hunger in himself to be more serious." According to Parkinson, "The connotations of the words in Larkin's poem are used to disarm the skeptical reader of his own skepticism for long enough to persuade him to admit the necessity and legitimacy of metaphysical speculation" (231). Thus, "Church Going" is one of Larkin's poems where the visionary moment is most nearly realized and least affected by skepticism often evident in his other work. Larkin's view of religion is constant throughout his poetry; in Aubade he says, "Religion used to try,/that vast moth-eaten musical brocade created to pretend we never die." In this poem he similarly implies society's reliance on religion, while in reality it is merely a pretense. 1 2 3 Page 59 4 Parkinson 229 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philip Larkin section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philip Larkin essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    The Recurring Theme of Death in the Poetry of Philip Larkin.

    4 star(s)

    Someone is kept from getting the best out of his life by a false promise of knowledge: while in his youth his mates went to enjoy themselves, the persona kept himself apart, aspiring to wisdom: Tell me the truth, I said, Teach me the way things go.

  2. "The Past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." Referring to L. ...

    In the words of Andrew Swarbrick, Larkin expresses not feelings of bitterness or pessimism but "of pathos, of a tender sympathy for the widow who recalls dreams knowing they are best forgotten." Though sometimes pleasurable reminiscing can reveal hopes that were unfulfilled, dreams never lived out, good times we can never experience again.

  1. Larkin "The Building".

    He names the places he would like it to be: a hotel, an airport lounge, a bus, but he can no longer delude himself it is a hospital. From the outside everything seems confused, unreal, he cannot even make out if it is a hospital.

  2. Compare the Ways in which Plath and Larkin explore ideas about Parenthood in their ...

    Because of this, the poem could also be taken as a prayer or wish for this to happen, especially as Plath tried and failed herself. This concept links to 'Self's the Man' by Larkin, as he suggests parents attempt to live through their children.

  1. Here is unfenced existence, from Here by Phip Larkin. Both he and Dannie Abse ...

    The brilliant sunlight was "almost blinding" and the heat had further heightened the smell emanating from the already very smelly fish dock; we can sense that the start of the journey is not scenic and the air is not aromatic but Larkin appears semi-content about his forthcoming journey.

  2. Free essay

    Theme of religion in Philip Larkin's Church Going

    Stanza 3 begins "Yet stop I did" showing to the reader an immediate shift in the narrators thinking and attitude. The narrator describes himself as "at a loss" - he doubts whether his initial views were true. This is the point in the poem in which the narrator wonders "when

  1. Compare the ways in which Larkin and Abse create a sense of place in ...

    Similarly, his personification of the objects, ?the vase that yawned?the four-legged table in a fright? could be used to show this attachment, as he feels a need to personify to inanimate objects to give the ?living room? the sense of life it always had to him.

  2. Compare the ways in which Larkin and Abse write about journeys and visits.

    It could be argued that Larkin and Abse?s differing views on journeys and visits come from the intentions behind them.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work