Critically analyse the themes within Phillip Larkin's "Toads Revisited" and Larkin's handling of the themes throughout the poem.

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This essay will critically analyse the themes within Phillip Larkin's "Toads Revisited" and Larkin's handling of the themes throughout the poem. Toads revisited (1964) was written eight years after Larkin's "Toads" following a shift in the persona's attitude towards several themes, which will be discussed throughout this essay.    

Phillip Larkin was a pessimist in many aspects of his life, Larkin was not religious and held the firm opinion that religion was merely a human invention, designed somewhat as a comfort blanket to help people cope with the fact there is no life after death. Larkin seemed to believe that anything that held any value in his life, such as a romantic relationship, would not last. For this reason, Larkin struggled to find long-lasting love. As Appleyard. B. wrote for the independent (1993) "[Larkin is] a hopeless and inflexible pessimist." and that "Larkin's [depression] was seldom more than grimly inward and futile." It can be argued that this is correct as his pessimistic attitude towards life had a significant impact on his writing, Larkins bleak view on death is a central theme seen in 1980 "Aubade" and "Church going" 1952 (which was written the same summer as "Toads" 1952.) In relation to this, one of the major themes seen throughout Toads revisited is pessimism. The metaphor of the toad used throughout both poems holds dark, oppressive connotations representing Larkin's pessimistic personality. The toad in both poems holds a double meaning; although it is a metaphor for working life, possibly also a metaphor for Larkin's personality flaws. The toad represents the feelings invoked by the need to work for a living.    

Larkin initially seems to have had a shift in attitude into a more positive tone, in comparison to Toads 1952. The natural imagery creates a warm, positive feeling "walking around in the park...the lake the sunshine, the grass to lie on." However, Larkin's true pessimistic personality is quickly unveiled again when he states, "yet it does not suit me". Larkin's depression created a skewed negative outlook on life. It affected his lack of fulfilment and pleasure that one would usually get when in the lovely setting described. Larkin creates the impression that working life is so much better than being "one of the men you meet of an afternoon" who are "palsied old step-takers hare-eyed...with the jitters". Larkin uses kinaesthetic imagery within this stanza to describe how the old men are shaking, the verb "palsied "has connotations of tremor and paralysis which evokes the feeling in the reader of paralysis and becoming stuck in this place. The constant shaking has connotations of nervousness as if these men are on the verge of a nervous breakdown; their "hare-eyes" creates the image of terror. The language used within the first two stanzas emphasises the pessimistic tone of Larkin's work.    

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The theme of time and ageing are seen prominently throughout the poem. The theme of time is initially seen in the title; the verb "revisited" suggests the theme will be prominent throughout. The poem takes the reader on a journey, as the persona experiences a change in attitude within the poem. The poem initially begins with the same attitude towards working life as that seen in "Toads" however, from the second stanza the shift is seen "yet it doesn't suit me". Larkin claims that being sat in a park in the afternoon "watching the bread being delivered" shows "stupidity" and ...

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