An important feature of the second stanza is that of contrast. The setting in this first half of the stanza is the activities of living people: “children strewn on steps or road” and “women coming from shops past smell of different dinners”. This is contrasted with the second half that focuses on death and continues the theme of death coming at anytime. The patient is made to seem dead and inhuman with the word choice “it is carried in and stowed”. The words “in” and “stowed” are not usually used with people and the impersonal tone of them ties in with the randomness of death, how death does not care who you are. A clever technique used in this stanza by Larkin was colour imagery. The use of colour red in the description of the “stretcher blankets” signifies death and the contrast with “wild white face” may allude to the red and white symbol of the Red Cross. I feel the point Larkin was trying to stress here was that even in a normal place with everyday activities going on around you, death can still strike.
There is a more reflective quality about stanza three. The comment of onlookers as they watch the ambulance leave “poor soul” is really directed at themselves, as they realise their own vulnerability to sickness and ultimately, death. The use of the word “emptiness” is used to continue the idea that we will all die, with the repetition of “and” adding weight to emphasise this. By using “we” in “under all we do” suggests that the futility of life, that is Larkins theme throughout, applies to the patient, himself as well as the reader. This really hits home that what Larkin is suggesting is not just appropriate to the poem, but might apply to our own lives as well.
In the final two stanzas Larkin focuses on the dying patient, and how the patient and the people around feel a “sudden shut of loss”. This gives the feeling of the door shutting on life with and air of separation and loss, as it is realised that a life is at its end. The idea that death is the final and complete end to the life that we have experienced is suggested by “borne away” “something nearly at an end” and”deadend air”. The word “end” conveys the thought that the finality of death happens at one moment and there is no way back. The reader is made to reflect on the idea that at this point everything that made up the persons life unravels before them with “unique random blend of families and fashion”. The use of the word “random” again reinforces the theme that no matter what your life consisted of death doesn’t care who you are. The final stanza is really a continuation of the previous one and goes through what happens at the point you die. The setting of “unreachable inside a room” really sums up the separation and loneliness of death and how once death has come you are alone and no one can help. The accident that the reader is following is used by Larkin to make the readers own death seem closer and realise that it could be looming in the near future. Larkin leaves the reader with bleak lines to dwell on. The thought that the ambulance brings the patient “closer what is left to come” is symbolic of the poets view that we are always rushing towards death. The final line leaves us with the idea of how death makes life “dulls to distance” and everything that made the life disappears forever.
After reading and analysing “Ambulances” it is obvious how well Larkin manages to use this ordinary everyday accident, to give the reader and insight into the apparent futility of life; death will come to us all no matter who we are or what we do, it is just a matter of time. I can see where Larkin is coming from but I believe that all we can do is the best we can with the time given to us. We have to understand the choices we have already made and make sure that when the day comes we can make it across the river of death to reach the other side: death should never be unexpected, you should be ready for it. The reason is in Larkin’s own thinking, death comes to us all it’s only a matter of time.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This is a very strong essay that ranges around the text and makes coherent and relevant links between different points in the poem. Apt points are considered in real life contexts and plenty of evidence from the text is used to support the interpretations made. 5 Stars