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To what extent is "Essential Beauty" characteristic of the collection as a whole?

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Introduction

To what extent is "Essential Beauty" characteristic of the collection as a whole? "Essential Beauty" is a poem in which Larkin explores the view of unattainable objects and how illusion does not match reality. Larkin describes billboards to convey messages of the difficulty shared by working classes in comparison to luxuries other classes can afford. This poem contains only two stanzas and the contrast between them of reality and fantasy is very obvious. This technique is used by Larkin to emphasize the contrast between reality and fantasy. The rhythm and mood at the beginning of the poem is dull, due the fact that the opening sentence has been made deliberately slow, and is used to good effect by Larkin. By creating such a slow introduction to the poem, the emphasis of the verb "shine" is strong. The effect here is to suggest the layer upon layer of advertising, which the poor are bombarded with daily. As well as this, fantasy and reality seem to conflict with each other in this poem. The use of the verbs "block" and "screen" show how unavoidable these images of luxury and fantasy are. ...read more.

Middle

As the first stanza continues, Larkin describes a "small cube" which has changed the lives of the people in the advert. The message that is put across here is the question; How can people have so much and be so happy because of one product? The use of one word to change a mood or tone is used again in the last line of the first stanza. Here we see the introduction of reality when "none" is used and as the two stanzas are joined by enjambment, "dominate" is stressed. Because of the poetic technique used, the change into reality is clearly scene, which underlines Larkin's message that reality and fantasy are separate. Larkin uses the word "stare" to show how people look beyond messages of perfection and are not fooled by the reality of their lives. The effect here is one of respect for the people Larkin describes. They know their lives are not perfect and are not discouraged by the adverts thrown at them. Their lives are as Larkin describes them: not "quite clean" and live near "rafted pubs". ...read more.

Conclusion

The last few words, "going dark" and the power they convey can also been seen in the poem "Sunny Prestatyn". Here, the last line is also strong and again shows the message of live and death; "Now Fight Cancer is there". The direct language used in both is shocking but does convey the grim reality that we live in. The reality and illusion aspect can also be explored in this poem. The first stanza emphasizes the romantic side to life. This is shown in the quote "taunted white satin". In contrast to this, the crude comment; "a tuberous cock and balls" which has been drawn on an advertising poster by a boy who cannot aspire to what he sees and so expresses his anger, is used to show how different reality and illusions are. The idea of reality and illusion in this poem is referred to in others and is a constant theme, which Larkin uses. The universal message is that illusions are created which we cannot aspire to. This poem is bitterer in content. The old men are not only disappointed after buying into the illusion, but are in fact dying after inhaling the cigarettes which they have been forced to buy. Laura-Jayne Barker 12C ...read more.

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