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Compare how the theme ‘passion’ is expressed by the poets Larkin and Plath

Passion is an integral theme demonstrated in several poems by Sylvia Plath and Philip Larkin through their conscience use of literary devices which are explored in a number of auxiliary themes. The variety in techniques used, in addition to their differing attitudes towards the subjects of their poems express dissimilar versions of passion; there is a contrast in the levels of passion displayed: In Larkin’s poetry, a deficiency in passion demonstrated frequently by his submissive, detached tone in relation to women, specifically through his continuous use of negative lexis. Within his poetry contains an enduring theme of his adverse attitude towards his opposite gender, alongside his inept approach to relating with them. Plath’s poetry on the other hand, holds a unique degree of angst; her tone is almost one of resilience in the respect of her determination for suicide. She expresses herself through her poetry with a harsh, personal, very honest communication concerning her subject matter; of which tend to consist repeatedly of her father, husband and battle with depression; these agonies within her life influence the effective, deeply sad, passionate poetry. Past experiences are the mother of the feelings represented and passion is something that is woven within Plath’s poetry naturally, accidently, and equivalent to Larkin, it is not necessarily through a positive approach. The passion or lack of it, displayed by the two poets is suggested to be influenced by their views on women, the past, and relationships.

Prior to Sylvia Plath’s suicide in 1963, she wrote the poem ‘Munich Mannequins’; ironically as the structure of the poem incorporates the theme of death deliberately. Within the poem, lexis is used to represent her passion for the rights of women and how she believes they are continuously mistreated subsequent as to how they are perceived as objects by men. The title ‘Munich Mannequins’ is a metaphor used to describe how she views women: symbolized and perfected as mannequins, which appear to her as perfect as they seem lifeless, thus unlike real women. Plath presents her feelings by envisaging perfection as anti-life and non-reproductive; exemplified in the simile ‘cold as snow breath’ which describes perfection as painful and restricting of the woman. However, also, this metaphor is a representation of what she views as the death of human beings, specifically women; a fervent interpretation in itself to express her attitude, regardless of the language she uses in the rest of the poem to explain her feelings towards the treatment of women by men, she portrays them as neglected and submissive. The repetition of the use of assonance in ‘blood,’ ‘flood,’ and ‘love’ along with the sibilance in ‘So, in their sulphur loveliness, in their smiles,’ creates the longing, mournful tone portraying Plath’s desire to be free of the restrictions she feels she, as a woman, is under because of the dismissive treatment she endures from the men in her life. The semantic field of death further reiterates her belief of the death of women and their state as mannequins.

The first opening declarative ‘Perfection is terrible’ shows direct antithetical use of ‘perfection’ and ‘terrible’ contrasting effectively to clarify Plath’s opinion of how she believes women are identified by the world, especially men – perfection is a state almost impossible to obtain in all areas of life. The description relating to women characterises that of which she believes how hard women work at supplying the needs of their men and children and the labouring pain of it; they are suffering to build a ‘perfect’ family base. ‘It cannot have children… it tamps with the womb’ the semantic field of birth intercepted with negative lexis such as ‘cannot’ and ‘tamps’ set about an image of unachievable, miserable labour.

Larkin’s ‘Wild Oats’ display his extreme lack of passion...
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