At face value, Philip Larkin’s Toads Revisited seems to be a vessel he is using to convey his negative feelings towards work and the working world. Look deeper and you can see that, while he complains about work, it is in actual fact the more favourable option for him, rather than doing nothing at all.
Philip Larkin had a Coventry upbringing and attended King Henry VIII School, before moving to Oxford, to St. John’s College to study English. There he became part of what was commonly known as ‘The Movement’, which also included Thom Gunn and Donald Davie. They had a witty, cynical outlook on life and were well known for their anti-romantic ideas. They did not use many metaphors in their works, but instead were rational and frank with their words. This negative way of thinking can be seen within his poems, and is clearly visible within Toads Revisited.
The poem starts with a mental image of a park; however the persona does not describe it as an enjoyable place to be. In the second line the words ‘should feel better than work’ cast a dim shadow over the scene, and quickly change the audience’s idea of the poems mood. He begins to list characteristics in a melancholy tone, a typical technique of the persona when he is uninspired. He portrays the children’s voices in the playground as ‘blurred’, to give the impression that the persona’s mind is elsewhere.
One theme that shows at one point in the text is that of a rather sexist nature. He refers to the nurses as ‘black-stockinged’, and comments on how it would be a nice place to be, which is the only vaguely positive comment in the entire poem.
The persona has the same cynical view of the passers-by as well, describing them as ‘palsied old step-takers’, ‘wax-fleshed’ and ‘hare-eyed’. The emotions triggered by these adjectives, e.g. hare-eyed potentially meaning a worried clerk overwhelmed by pressure at his workplace, leave a negative sounding impact on the audience.... [continues]
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