‘Afternoons’ differs from all of the poems above, because its central theme is time.
This is a melancholy poem, about the inevitability of change and the passing of youth. The title refers to a stage in these young mothers’ lives; which the poem focuses on. The structure is typical, with three stanzas. The first describes ordinary everyday scenery; second stanza Larkin makes his own comments and leads to a realization in the final stanza. There is no direct reference to love or relationships; instead these ideas are perceived as victims of time.’Summer’ gives a sense of peak in youth, the fact that its ‘fading’ suggest the young mothers are stepping into a new life (as their youth ends). Their lives are unfulfilled, hence ‘hollows,’ which conveys emptiness at this stage in life.
They ‘assemble,’ rather than meet up, suggesting a strictly controlled life. Words such as ‘hollows,’ ‘fading’ and ‘fall’ create a sad tone, as these suggest a loss. In the whole poem, many verbs used end in ‘-ing,’ which suggest change.One can expect the style to be similar to other Larkin poems; therefore this is not likely to be a favorable change.
Larkin thinks time, represented by ‘the wind’ is responsible for ‘ruining their courting-places:’ symbol of their own youth. This is a dramatic expression. Their youthful good looks have ‘thickened.
‘ All of this is negative, which tells us how Larkin view time. At the end, we see they have been pushed ‘to the side of their own lives,’ which mean are living for others, not themselves.Larkin doesn’t show his view on love directly. However he shows in effect of time upon it in stanza two.
The young mothers’ lives seem to lack romance. ‘Stand husbands,’ ‘their children’ and ‘an estateful of washing’, dominate their lives. Love seems to play only a small part, as their wedding album lies abandoned near the television.
Larkin thinks love, at this stage of life, bears little importance; it is just something that is ‘lying’ around.The pun was used twice before (previous poems), again suggesting love is fake, against popular (and idealized) views. Larkin presents us life after marriage ‘at intervals,’ which brings rhythm to the poem, suggesting dullness. Again this acts as a metaphor for the poem. The use of ‘before’ and ‘behind’ represents their real life, and what lies in the future. Larkin believes love only occurs (and brings true happiness) during youth, as ‘lovers are all in school.
‘ The ending is vague: ‘something’ is responsible. The ambiguity shows all of this is happening without anyone really noticing.I think the poem conveys Larkin’s view easily, and the familiar language aids this. He used imagery and metaphors to convey the message. These repeat in the poem, such as the idea of ending: end of the day, end of summer, memories of the wedding fading, losing their beauty and control of their lives.
Larkin contrasts this with newness, thus making it an unwelcoming idea. The child is taking over the courting-places (also contrast between falling leaves and unripe acorns.). Reality is new replacing the old, and that love fades away.’Sunny Prestatyn’ is based on Larkin’s personal experience of looking at the poster.
However, other aspects differ form all previous poems. Primarily the central theme is the idealized world and reality. Larkin tries to illustrate the cruelty of the real world. Secondly, the poem is about failed masculinity leading to the destruction of images of women. The poem lacks Larkin’s commentary; he simply describes what he sees. This means one cannot observe his views (on anything) directly.
The first stanza sets up an idea of the perfect world with beauty. This is conveyed by the girl in the poster in the ‘white taunted sand’ against a background of an ‘hotel with palms.’ This suggested purity and peacefulness, lacking any signs of imperfection such as violence.
This is the idealized view of the world by the poster designer, and together with Larkin’s other poems, most people could share this view.There is a sense of unnatural perfection. However the fact that Larkin’s attention is drawn to the girl’s physical appearance (especially body parts which attract men the most: breast and legs) may imply that most men is only concerned about the looks at first sight. This leads to love being fake, as it is only applied to the outside. Larkin have chosen to end the stanza like this to show men are not aware of the inside, or what might happen in the future, as described in the following stanza, the poster is destroyed.There is a major change in tone, started with ‘slapped up,’ the tone has become aggressive. Larkin used colloquial language in this stanza, which makes it become cruder. She was ‘snaggle-toothed’ and ‘boss-eyed’ in a short time.
These phrases suggest the offenders have great anger against the poster, or what it conveys. The language strongly contrasts with the first stanza to support the anger. E.g. ‘breast’ (used in conversations about art) and ‘tits’ (sex-related conversations). The humiliation of the poster is presented with humor (yet aggressive), but there is no explanation for the anger. There may be a bitter pun on the word ‘well,’ it may indicate Larkin’s support for this destruction.
However this is not strong evidence, as he may not have meant for this pun.In the final stanza we are presented the reasons. This stanza contrasts with the previous one by providing a more disturbing images such as ‘knife’ and ‘stab.’ The fact that her smile is pierced clarifies their motive.
The offenders were not happy about the idealized world portrayed by the poster, therefore by adding imperfections, wants to bring it closer to reality and to express their anger. They want to show people that reality is nowhere near their dreams. Larkin justifies their actions because ‘she was too good for this life anyway,’ as if she deserved this (because she did not match reality). Larkin has shown support, meaning he also holds similar views of the world. Because love is part of our life (no matter how insignificant), and we live in this harsh reality; love and relationship is ultimately affected.They are portrayed as perfect, but these views should be destroyed because it is not real. Larkin again shows his minute faith in love. Like the poster, it can be destroyed aggressively ‘very soon.
‘ A new poster replaces the old, revealing the uncaring world. The content ‘fight cancer,’ suggests death. Again Larkin’s poem opens up with a beautiful scene, but ends tragically, reflecting his view on life, love and relationships.
(However, because Larkin does not show much personal response, these views are results from interpretation by comparing this with other poems in this essay.)The poem if full of humor, and by using strong language, it engages the reader. The gaps are set so reader will want to read on to find out what Larkin is trying to say. The theme is easily conveyed, due to strong contrasting language between stanzas. ‘Wild Oats’ functions as an explanation for Larkin’s pessimistic views on love. The poem is about his failure to sow his wild oats; he talks about a failed relationship of his own. The central theme is the ideal and reality.
There is strong contrast between two girls. He also showed the nature of this particular relationship.The reader is presented with two completely different girls. The ‘bosomy English rose’ was obviously whom Larkin was attracted to most. He believes she is the most beautiful girl he’ll ‘ever’ meet. But, roses have thorns. Larkin may have used this description to show her intimidation. Evidence would be the fact that she may have wanted to ‘laugh’ at Larkin.
Like a rose, she is difficult to get hold of (without hurting oneself), and ultimately Larkin lacked the confidence to ask her out, he assumed someone like her would not be interested in him. Larkin has put a limit to love, he believes it is restricted, and love is not powerful enough to break the barrier that he felt she was higher than him.She represents the ideal; something Larkin believes will never become true. On the other hand, ‘her friend in specs’ was whom Larkin felt comfortable to talk to and take out. She did not receive detailed descriptions, pointing out a rather negative point about the glasses. Lack of descriptions make her plain, compared to the ‘rose,’ she is inferior. The use of ‘but’ in the last line indicates Larkin may have expected the reader to hope that he goes with the ‘rose;’ Larkin lets the reader down. This adds to the style of his poems and creates a sad, helpless tone.
In the next verse, Larkin describes the relationship. The ‘four hundred letters’ meant they must have been quite close. To have been to ‘numerous’ places gives a sense of greatness; metaphorically this refers to their relationship. The ‘ten-guinea ring’ even hints marriage.
But Larkin again lets the reader down when he ‘got back the ring.’ Despite their long relationship, it remained ‘unknown to the clergy.’ This format is typical of Larkin, the relationship starts out well, but as times go by, changes will occur. The sudden mention of ‘beautiful’ tells us he has not forgotten her. Although, he still has not the confidence to talk her.
And gives a slight hint of a breakup.As one would expect, the final stanza represents the final stage of the relationship-break up, in spite of the stable relationship. ‘Rehearsals refers to arguments that nearly separated them. But, they had enough and decided to split. Larkin describes it as an ‘agreement.’ It is an unusual description, as it makes relationships something unemotional and demeaning. He was ‘bored’ with love, but it could have been vice versa: love may be boring naturally.
Larkin does try to comfort himself by learning something from it: he was responsible for the breakup. Love is not as powerful as one may think, as it did not survive Larkin’s selfishness. Again Larkin mentions the ‘rose,’ after twenty years he still hasn’t forgotten. He might have chosen to have a picture of her with ‘fur gloves on,’ this might have made her more attractive (gloves are elegant) but less intimidating (gloves protecting Larkin from the thorns). She was an ‘unlucky charm,’ because she was beautiful but was dangerous to carry her photograph when Larkin is dating someone else.I think this poem explains Larkin’s views clearly. The language is very simple, yet it reveals a lot about him.
From ‘Wild Oats,’ one can see why Larkin has written his poems with such pessimistic message. His failure of relationship has led him to see the world as he had experienced it. He thinks love and relationship is insignificant (‘An Arundel Tomb,’ ‘The Whitsun Weddings’). People have praised the idea of love (‘Love Songs in Age.’) but it has lead to disappointment because the idealized love can never be realized. Reality is, love does have an end (‘Talking in Bed’); and after a certain time, love plays a little part of life (‘Afternoons’). Larkin believes the reality should be reveal to people (‘Sunny Prestatyn’).
Of all, love’s foe is time; as all poems are linked with time, and the love has not survived it.