Graham appears to have an exaggerated perception of his own abilities with his reference to reading Guardian and saying that is mother has “picked up enough from me”. This is an example of Freud’s sublimination defence mechanism as Graham is directing his energy into other activities which are perceived as positive aspects of the personality.
In A Chip in the Sugar alludes to Graham’s homosexuality with the homosexual-pornographic magazines during an argument with his mother towards to dénouement of the monologue.
“I know what kind of magazines you read”, I said “chess”… she said “they never are chess. Chess with no clothes on. Chess in their birthday suits. That kind of chess. Chess men” I said “go to bed and turn your blanket off.”
This quotation is a prime example of Graham’s inability to accept information which is dangerous to his ego and exhibiting signs of Freudian denial. The magazine mirrors “The Guardian” and the lie that the magazines are apparently “chess” suggests that one is what he wants the world to see him as, an intellectual, and the other, the male magazines is what he wants to hide from the world, his homosexuality. The fact that Graham hides the magazines symbolises that he wants to hide the true Graham. Graham tries to separate these two aspects of his personality and separates his intellectual and his emotional sides. The quarrel between Graham and his mother was, for Graham, the two worlds colliding causing a huge emotional trauma. However, the fact that Graham denies that the magazines are of a homosexual pornographic nature symbolises that he in denial about himself and who he really is, through the subconscious use of a Freudian defence mechanism t Graham attempts to protect his ego from this harmful information. The fact that Graham avoids the truth with “go to bed and turn you blanket off” shows how Graham behinds behind his role as carer to hide screen his homosexuality.
Lesley, in Bennett’s Her Big Chance, has a deluded self image. She believes that she is a professional actress and from that derives a sense of self importance, “people who know me tell me I’m a serious person, only its funny, I never get to do serious parts. This quotation outlines an ironic aspect of Lesley’s life because she is in denial about the fact that she is not a “serious” actor, or taken “seriously” by others. We understand that Lesley’s big chance actually consists of a small role in a low grade film. Her role is not important as we learn that her “big” line about having a headache has been cut from the film, therefore she has no influence on the film, and the self importance Lesley conveys through her pride is denial which masks her feeling of insignificance and inferiority. Lesley is in denial, a defence mechanism which blocks threatening thoughts or information from awareness, thud protecting Lesley, and her ego, from accepting her failure as an actress.
“Kenny, this is the kind of evening I like, two people just talking about something interesting... I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t remember where I was. Then I saw the cat sitting there, watching trout.”
The monologue jumps from Lesley being in a conversation with a man, and waking up the next morning in their bed. Although Lesley appears to be promiscuous, it is somewhat acceptable and pitiable as it is a result of her naivety and her loneliness. However, her naivety is in question because she appears to recognise their intentions “thank you kind sir but I didn’t fall off the Christmas tree yesterday.”Perhaps Lesley, although initially sceptical of these men, is later fooled, which reinforces her naivety. It could appear to some extent she realises that the sexual attention is the only attention she will receive from men, therefore she complies. The monologue never describes any sexual encounters of Lesley’s which are not related to her role. Perhaps this is an incapability Lesley has to speak about this and she “couldn’t remember where I was”, suggests the ego has repressed the actual act of intercourse from Lesley’s mind, which could highlight Lesley’s incapability to accept that she has no more to offer to other people than sex. The cat watching the trout could metaphorically represent how Lesley feels, that the cat, representing men as predators and she, the trout is their prey, in sex and in life.
Lesley’s interest in self help books and personal development could mean that she is unhappy with herself. At the end of the monologue Lesley says “no fear, I’m going to acquire another skill... you see the more you have to offer as a person the better you are as an actress.” This outlines that Lesley strives to have more to offer to other people than sex particularly when she feels dissatisfied. This also could outline the presence of Freud’s sublimination defence mechanism as Lesley subconsciously tries to channel negative energy such as dissatisfaction and loneliness into activities and personal development.
The speaker In Mr Bleaney has given Mr Bleaney’s life a lot of consideration “I know his habits”. However, it could be seen that he knows his habits because he is living through them and the adoption of Mr Bleaney’s living accommodation is the adoption of the monotony of his life, “I lie where Mr. Bleaney lay”. However, the speaker struggles to accept the comparison “stuffing my ears with cotton wool.”
The speaker refers to “he” when he in fact means himself, “He warranted no better, I don’t know.” This is because the emotions described “grinned and shivered without shaking off the dread” insinuates an intimate understanding of what Mr Bleaney’s feels. Larkin’s character could be feeling these emotions himself; to enable him to understand them to the extent that he describes them. The description can only come from a character that can associate deeply with the emotions, further than empathise with what Mr Bleaney feels; the fundamental fear of Larkin’s character, that his life is unfulfilling and he with no life baggage, “behind the door no room for books or bags – ill take it”, is a failure. I believe this quotation outlines his personality traits, and his lifestyle choice having no room for baggage, which metaphorically represents family ties and friends. The swiftness in the decision “- ill take it” the hyphen directly linking it to the fact that there is no room for baggage. This could suggest that perhaps Larkin’s character desires not to be allowed to let others in, he wants his loneliness to be the fault of the outside word. “That how we live measures out own nature” outlines the speaker’s awareness that the way he lives is the fault of his “own nature”. “He warranted no better, I don’t know” suggests that he still is incapable of accepting this piece of information as the truth, and when he feels any information which is harmful to his ego he “shivered, without shaking off the dread.” Which shows that although he can not physically and emotionally handle the information, his attempts to deny it actually fail and the “dread” still clings to him.
The speaker describes Mr Bleaney’s in a negative light “and at his age having no more to show than one hired box... he warranted no better.” This in depth view of Mr Bleaney’s life is the speaker’s inability to accept that his life is worse than the life he is describing. This could be the subconscious use of Freud’s projection defence mechanism where an individual projects forbidden emotions onto others i.e. faults in others are sometimes the faults we cannot accept about ourselves. The main aspect that Larkin’s speaker fails to realise, or realises but fails to accept, is that the although he looks down on Mr Bleaney and the life he lead, the life he leads is sadder and lonelier.
Self’s the man describes Larkin’s speaker looking at a married man and his life. The speaker has a cynical view the reasons behind marriage, “he married a woman to stop her getting away.” He does not describe their marriage as being one void of love, but never mentions love or emotions. Instead the marriage is described as a transaction “and the money he gets for wasting his life on work, she takes as her perk” and focuses on the domestic duties “put a screw in this wall” and “to paint the hall in his old trousers.” The focus on the trivialities of life highlights the lack of understanding of love and a healthy relationship.
“Oh, no one can deny that Arnold is less selfish than I.” This quotation could outline the fact that the character is using his selfishness as an excuse for not forming a serious attachment with a woman. Which could demonstrate that the character struggles to accept that it is in fact not his decision that he didn’t marry, and that is was a fault of his personality and behaviour. The character appears in denial that he is “playing his own game” and that he is contented with being alone to protect his ego from accepting that he is not a suitable husband. I’m a better hand at knowing what I can stand, without them sending a van – or I suppose I can”. The parenthesis outlines the falseness of what he is trying to convince himself because he is not better at “knowing what I can stand”. “Without them sending a van”, refers to married life driving him crazy, although “or I suppose I can” indicates that he in fact the single life he has chosen, will equally drive him crazy, creating irony because he is not “a better hand at knowing what I can stand”. Overall the speaker in Self’s the Man, struggles to come to terms with the fact that the life he thinks is better suited to him, which is ironic because this life makes him just as unhappy as he thought the life he tried to avoid would make him.
Within these works, the key theme is self perception and how that is formed. Larkin’s speakers isolation is self inflicted, similarly to that of Bennett’s speakers. Lesley, in Her Big Chance has a deluded self importance and finds it difficult to accept her loneliness or how she is undervalued as a person. When Lesley outlines key features of herself, it creates irony and ultimately a greater effect. Through the person speaking to the reader, it highlights that they are the opposite of what they say they are. In A chip in the Sugar this is also evident because he finds it so difficult to accept himself as a homosexual it causes severe a mental illness and he denies it even when his mother demonstrates that she knows the truth. Overall, all of the characters within these works struggle to come to terms with who they are, and try and live with the delusion with that are content being who they desire to be, and how they think they want to live.
Philip Larkin The Poems analysing texts by Nicholas Marsh 2007
Larkin Open guides to literature by Roger Day 1987
The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin
Talking heads by Allan Bennett
Talking heads York notes advanced by Delia Dick
GCE A2 Health And Social care Niell Moonie 2006
Word count 2316