How Work Is a Duty Comparing Two Poems

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“Work is a duty”: Compare and contrast two poems you have studied in the light of this statement.

It’s safe to say that “Toads” and “Toads Revisited”, both by Philip Larkin, have two very different viewpoints to work. Although written by the same poet, I feel they discuss the statement about ‘duty’ interestingly; both relay their points in a number of clever ways.

Looking at “Toads”, in the perspective of the poet, we start to see that there is certain imagery in the poem that tells us a lot about the poets’ view on work. The fact that the poet effectively sees work as a “sickening poison” tells the reader he feels work, in essence, make us ill. To a certain extent we realise that Larkin actually despises work: seeing it not as a duty but as a corruption. This imagery of “poison” gives a very dark and sinister atmosphere. In contrast, “Toads Revisited”, also by Larkin, has the opposite atmosphere and imagery. From line one of the poem (“walking around in the park”) we see that the mood is light, and therefore guess that the poem is in favour of work being a ‘duty’: Larkin uses happy and joyful imagery. “The lakes, the sunshine, grass to lie on”. The way Larkin uses that sentence – “grass to lie on” – puts the reader in that relaxed and tranquil state of mind, perhaps the grass represents life and how it “should” feel good to lie back and not work; but somehow all this relaxation “doesn’t suit” the persona of the poem. Relating this back to the statement of how “work is a duty”, Larkin is trying to say (with his imagery in “Toads revisited”) is that we cannot call work a “duty” as it is not so, according to him. Instead it is a choice. I will further expand this point later on. Larkin goes on to describe tramps: “palsied old step-takers”. A “duty” is a legal or moral obligation to carry out an action, and from what Larkin displays here is interesting: how can we be obliged if we have the choice not to? Duty or not, tramps and the homeless, the...
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