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'A Study of Reading Habits' by Philip Larkin Critical Essay

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Introduction

'A Study of Reading Habits' by Philip Larkin- Critical Essay By Rhianon Cunningham 'A Study of Reading Habits' by Philip Larkin is a poem that explores loneliness. It describes three stages of the portrayed characters life where he describes how he uses books as a way of coping with his feelings of isolation in the first person. At the start, the poet writes about how as a child, the character read about heroes and villains in action adventure stories or comics. The second stanza then skips to a time when the character portrayed is a bit older and now reads horror novels. Then in the last stanza when the character is an adult, the reader is told how he has given up on books as a way of escape and has turned to alcohol instead. The speaker's solitude is conveyed through the writer's use of word choice, imagery and structure. In stanza one the reader can assume that the speaker is quite young and perhaps still at school. ...read more.

Middle

Instead of doing so he reads to escape it, an activity which is, in itself, a lonely activity. The reader has limited sympathy towards the speaker at this point, limited as the reader can understand why he feels lonely, but the character doesn't do anything to change this. In the second stanza, we can see that the poem has skipped forward to a different time in the persona's life where he isn't any less of an outcast. 'Later with inch-thick specs' 'Later' shows the speaker is now older while 'inch-thick specs' suggests that he may use these 'specs' as a mask on the outside so shield himself from others while his books act as an outlet for his innermost desires and again shield him from others. 'Me and my coat and fangs Had ripping times in the dark' This metaphor suggests he had fun in the night, however it could be seen as ambiguous which would then imply something darker and more violent. ...read more.

Conclusion

The frank tone and colloquial language of the last line, 'books are a load of crap' suggests that the writer now realises that books are not a substitute for a happy life, and that he has wasted his life fantasising about being something he is not when he could have spent his time changing his life, making it better and himself more happy. He bitter tone also suggests that the character is still lonesome as at no point does he mention a companion or friend. The reader now loses all sympathy for the persona, as they are as aware as he is of his laziness and reluctance to stop wishing away his worries and confront them. In conclusion, 'A Study of Reading Habits' by Philip Larkin is a poem where the poet explores the theme of loneliness. The reader's appreciation of the theme is deepened by Larkin's skilful use of imagery, structure and word choice. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

The essay writer demonstrates some insight into the poem but cannot fully make the imaginative leap to empathise with the experience of the speaker. The poem is the study of a solipsist, an entirely self-obsessed individual who channels all his life-energies into his intense fantasies.

The essay writer makes some unsupported assumptions about the speaker, such as his view of women, and misses the full significance of some key images, such as the thick spectacles.

Paragraph and essay structures are well managed and lexis is up to the task.

3 stars

Marked by teacher Jeff Taylor 07/08/2013

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