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Some critics suggest that Larkin portrays human existence as bleak in his poetry - to what extent do you agree with this view in Mr Bleaney?

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Introduction

Some critics suggest that Larkin portrays human existence as bleak in his poetry - to what extent do you agree with this view in Mr Bleaney? On the surface, 'Mr Bleaney' is a poem about a man that has come to live in a home formally occupied by Mr Bleaney. The subtext of the poem is concerned with a man's fear that his life has become a routine - in the way that he believes Mr Bleaney's life had been. Throughout this essay, I shall discover whether the themes in 'Mr Bleaney' conform to the view of some critics - that Larkin's poetry is a portrayal of bleak human existence - whilst analysing the undertones of the poem. The title is very important for revealing the nature of the poem. 'Bleaney' has connotations of the words 'bleak' 'mean' and 'dreary', which could convey a lot about Mr Bleaney's personality but also give a clue to the content of the rest of the poem. The first stanza begins 'This was Mr Bleaney's room'. This establishes the precise setting for the rest of the poem. The use of caesura and enjambment help to control the pace within the first stanza. Mr Bleaney obviously used to work for a car manufacturing company 'the Bodies, till they moved him'. ...read more.

Middle

The 'jabbering set he egged her on to buy' is intrusive to the narrator. Onomatopoeia in the word 'jabbering' emphasises the noise that probably imposes upon the silence and solitude that the narrator prefers. 'I know his habits' implies that the narrator has tried to find out as much as possible about Mr Bleaney from the Landlady. The non-poetic detail of Mr Bleaney's habits 'what time he came down, his preference for sauce to gravy' makes Mr Bleaney's life seem incredibly insular and very tedious. 'He kept on plugging at the four aways' shows that Mr Bleaney had a sense of persistence however, he followed an empty hope. Although the 'four aways' means 'the pools', it could also symbolise the seasons - that although Mr Bleaney continued to exist, his life was one of very little excitement or joy. The syntax in 'The Frinton folk who put up with him for summer holidays' makes it obvious that the people from Frinton tolerated Mr Bleaney. Frinton is a rather parochial and boring place, which adds to the ongoing theme of dreariness. Similarly 'Stoke' contributes to this same theme. The fact that Mr Bleaney had no wife or children implies that he led a meagre and lonely life. Larkin uses pathetic fallacy to indicate that the mood becomes darker and emptier in the last two stanzas - 'watched the frigid wind, tousling the clouds'. ...read more.

Conclusion

They also encompass the main themes of the poem by building upon the parallel between Mr Bleaney's life and the narrator's - almost making them united. The poem is all about monotonous existence. There is no hope in the poem for anything better. The poem ends in a way that indicates nothing will change for the narrator and that he will be destined to repeat Mr Bleaney's fate. Larkin does not look upon routine with any positive sentiment in this poem. He uses dark, negative language to convey his feelings for example 'tussocky, littered'. He creates a sense of empathy between the reader and the narrator when he utilises objects to convey a meaning. For example the 'saucer-souvenir' in the room shows that the Landlady lacks care and treats her rooms in a similar way. The fact that Mr Bleaney and the narrator are happy to accept this cheap treatment shows that they also lack care, for themselves and for others. They accept the way that they live because, they believe that they 'warrant no better'. I believe that 'Mr Bleaney' is an excellent example of Larkin writing about a bleak human existence. Through the characters of Mr Bleaney and the narrator, Larkin expresses that humans will continue to follow a life of tedium and monotony whilst ever they allow themselves to accept less than what they are really worth. For this reason, I completely agree that Larkin is trying to portray human existence as bleak in 'Mr Bleaney'. Word Count = 1,394 ...read more.

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Response to the question

There is a clear focus on the key word in the question, “bleak”, and each paragraph explicitly considers different aspects of the text pertaining to this key word. The introduction and conclusion are clear and concise, with each showing the ...

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Response to the question

There is a clear focus on the key word in the question, “bleak”, and each paragraph explicitly considers different aspects of the text pertaining to this key word. The introduction and conclusion are clear and concise, with each showing the direction of the essay. This makes the essay easy to read and to follow.

Level of analysis

Analysis is particularly strong, as not only language but also aspects of form and structure are pulled apart. The interpretation of the use of iambic pentameter as reflective of the mediocrity of life is particularly interesting, and could have even been taken further: the last stanza is irregular in terms of rhyme. The author explains this away by pointing out the eye-rhyme, but they could have considered why there is a disruption in the rhyme. If Larkin wanted to suggest the eternal tedium of life, why make any changes to the structure or form of the poem? Does the irregularity actually highlight the tedium of past stanzas by, just at the end of the poem, showing what exciting things Larkin could have put into the poem, but didn't? Or does it suggest that life does sometimes change (hence the aural unrhyme) but not so much as to make a difference (hence it still being an eye-rhyme). The author could have then brought in evaluation to judge which interpretation is most likely and why, or which type of readers would have interpreted the quote in a certain way. Therefore, throughout the essay the analysis is very strong, but could be extended by getting into really close reading of the text and judging it from all angles meticulously, as well as the general consideration of themes which the author does splendidly in the conclusion. The conclusion creates a natural end to the essay and in referencing the introduction makes the essay seem circular and the question answered.

Quality of writing

The author uses technical terms such as caesura extremely well, and such terms are always pertinent to the essay, so it doesn't seem as though they are simply throwing in terms without explaining and just for the sake of it. However, the tone sometimes becomes a little too informal – in the conclusion the phrases “I believe” and “completely agree” bring the essay down from a cogently argued University level piece to a substandard level of informality. Overall, this is an essay at a University level, though there could be more close analysis.


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Reviewed by _becca 16/07/2012

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