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Compare the Ways in Which Larkin and Abse Write About Settings in Their Poems. Essay

Compare the ways in which Larkin and Abse write about settings in their poems. In your response you must include detailed critical discussion of at least two of Larkin’s poems.

In ‘Mr Bleaney’ Larkin explores the setting of an old house, still ever present with the spirit and legacy of its last occupant. Setting is presented as impressionable on its inhabitant, restricting and institutionalising their lives. Similarly, Abse’s poem ‘Leaving Cardiff’ also displays themes regarding setting giving you an identity, which is defined by one place, leaving the persona institutionalised. Regarding setting, another of Larkin’s poems ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ also supports the theme of settings being very impressionable. However, like ‘Leaving Cardiff’, this particular poem hints at settings also contributing to a disappointing, anticlimactic and overrated journey.

In ‘Mr Bleaney’ Larkin presents setting as an extremely reclusive place which has an everlasting and overpowering effect on the persona, making him very agoraphobic. The repetitive and constant ‘ABAB’ rhyme scheme throughout this poem hints at the continual and dull life the persona leads, being forced to live a constant, boring life sculpted by Mr Bleaney’s previous existence. The lexis ‘stayed’ also reiterates the lack of ambition the persona feels towards being any different to Mr Bleaney. The previous occupant Mr Bleaney relied on his house ‘the whole time’, and the persona is starting to behave similarly. The end of the poem ‘I don’t know.’, ending with a caesura displaying irony, is a powerful ending which is the personas way of justifying superiority or difference, and the irony that he is actually like Mr Bleaney, a reclusive and restrictive man. The metaphorical use of pathetic fallacy ‘frigid wind’ is hinting at the outside world trying to torpon the previous occupant to come outside more frequently, but due to his contentment with confinement, he chose never to.

‘That how we live measures our own nature’ is showing how home sculpts you to how you are and your life is evaluated based on your home. Therefore, the previous occupant Mr Bleaney is leaving an everlasting impression on his home, rubbing of onto the way the persona lives his life. In addition, the lexis ‘home’ is used when describing this particular setting. On the whole, this prison like venue is quite the opposite of a homely environment and the irony is that evidently the setting in this poem is more like a ‘hired box’, hinting at a coffin like atmosphere created within the ‘home’. On the whole, the setting in this poem is not described very positively, and the persona should definitely not be happy within the confinement of an everlasting, dominant presence overshadowing the joy of life through obsession with imprisonment.

Similarly, Abse’s poem ‘Leaving Cardiff’ also hints at setting being accountable for your identity. ‘Can I be the same man twice’ is a prime example of setting, in this poem Cardiff, defying your distinctiveness. The persona within this poem is reflecting on how Cardiff once distinctively defined who he was, and now he is leaving, he will never be the same person that Cardiff once moulded him into. To show the persona and the setting are strongly linked with a bond, the metaphorical usage of pathetic fallacy ‘knots of water flow’ is hinting at the emotional response that Cardiff has on the persona, linking them together strongly and showing how dominant setting is in his life. In addition, the materialistic use of ‘now the funnels negations blow’ shows how Cardiff was dominant in every aspect of the personas life. Due to funnels blowing out rings of smoke, they are metaphorically signifying the repetitious and vicious circles the persona will face in always being linked to Cardiff, bringing him back to where he started. Also, the rings of smoke signify the emptiness within his life, and how once he leaves Cardiff a segment of his identity will be left behind.

Alternatively, setting in Larkin’s ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ is predominantly described through a journey on a train, contributing to the disappointing and overrated impression of setting. Although Larkin claims there was nothing of himself in this poem, his biographer maintains there was everything of the poet in this poem, critiquing the homogeneity of life. In one sense, the persona is experiencing a stereotypical journey within the setting of a train, on looking on the ‘houses’ and ‘streets’ surrounding him. However, in another sense the persona is looking at the mass production of newlyweds during ‘The Whitsun Weddings’, a religious festival, unprepared for their hopeful and artificial journey ahead.

Phillip Larkin is very critical of marriage, believing too much credence is put on it and the reality is that it will not last. ‘A slow and stopping curve southwards’. This is hinting at the reality of life going downhill after marriage, and the expected journey will not succeed. In regards to setting, the setting of a train is extremely significant. As the newlyweds pile on the train polluting true love, the train is symbolically signifying the deteriorative journey that will take place in their love lives. Generally, this poem is very negative towards the journey that married couples will face, symbolical of the setting of a train. However, the slight break of the ABABCDECDE’ rhyme scheme when ‘grass’ and ‘cars’ rhyme is to show a slight blip of happiness in marriage, in contrast to sorrow.

This is because Larkin wanted to show how this is only his opinion on the journey of marriage. Also, the breaking of the rhyme scheme could symbolically show how in fact in later life the couples may separate and evidently their marriage could break down. The setting of a train is to also show the normalisation and journey of a marriage. Abse’s ‘Leaving Cardiff’ also uses journey to contribute to the setting, just like Larkin does. The journey that the persona is facing in this poem is that he is leaving Cardiff for good. ‘Upload and move on’. This particular metaphor is showing how the persona is leaving the setting of Cardiff, but will never forget the journey he has been on whilst he is there, and evidently the Journey he will face in the future.


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