Essay, Pages 4 (992 words)
Compare the ways in which Larkin and Plath explore human relationships in their poems. Larkin- Talking in Bed, Afternoons; Plath- Balloons, The Applicant The poems Talking in Bed and Afternoons written by Larkin, and Balloons and The Applicant written by Plath, present human relationships in different ways. Plath’s Balloons focuses on personal experiences and happiness and is written from her own point of view. The Applicant mocks the relationship that is expected by society between a husband and wife, and criticises the role of a woman within a marriage.
Larkin’s “Talking in Bed”
In Larkin’s Talking in Bed, he expresses ideas about how time can affect and change a relationship between two people, and similarly in Afternoons he looks at what has altered in a husband’s and wife’s world since they have been together. Larkin and Plath both discuss romantic relationships, Larkin speaks from a pessimistic point of view, and Plath in a similar tone in The Applicant.
However Plath’s Balloons looks at a different kind of relationship entirely, the one she has with her children.
Talking in Bed by Larkin shows how a relationship can change over time, and how people can grow apart emotionally, even if they are together physically. The poem opens with ‘Talking in bed ought to be easiest’, displaying Larkin’s cynical outlook on the relationship. The use of the auxiliary verb ‘ought’ shows that talking in bed isn’t easy, even though it should be, which is shown by the line ‘yet more and more time passes silently’.
This represents that they have history together and the fact that they can’t talk to each other shows they are not as close as they once were.
The use of the word ’emblem’ symbolises the relationship between two people which is shown by the act of lying in bed together. It may also refer to what is supposed to be ideal, which is being together, however this is overshadowed by the ordinary and mundane life that they lead, therefore ’emblem’ is ironic as Larkin is actually describing the opposite of this idea. Opposition is used in the first stanza with the words ‘lying’ and ‘honest’, to intensify the two extremes of communication.
The word ‘lying’ is ambiguous as Larkin may be referring to the couple lying in bed together, as well as lying to each other. The conjunction ‘yet’ shows that this doesn’t matter and the past is irrelevant because they now find it hard to do something as simple as talk in bed, which is shown by ‘more and more time passes silently’. The repetition of the adjective ‘more’ emphasises that it’s becoming harder to break the silence and the adverb ‘silently’ emphasises how the passing of time has led to the conversation ending.
In this poem Larkin is conveying how people may not notice time passing, but how time can have a damaging effect on a relationship between two people that were once close. Larkin uses words with negative connotations such as ‘unrest’, ‘difficult’ and ‘isolation’ to show the damaging feelings in a relationship, and contradicts the idea of what a relationship is supposed to be about. Words such as ‘isolation’ are emotive and Larkin uses feelings that can be felt universally. Each stanza is 4 lines long and 10 syllables long representing the repetitive nature of the relationship and giving the poem its rhythm.
Larkin uses end stopped lines in the first stanza to represent that he is bound by the relationship. However, Plath’s Balloons expresses the happy relationship she has with her children and the feelings she has towards them, as opposed to Larkin’s Talking in Bed, which shows the deterioration of a bad relationship. Larkin speaks in the third person from a non-specific perspective whereas Plath uses the first person as she is directly involved in the event occurring in Balloons.
Whereas Larkin is pessimistic towards the future of the relationship, Plath is optimistic about her family and the future. Plath refers to her children directly and is involved in the events of the poem, whereas in Talking in Bed, Larkin is objective and removed from the poem. The line ‘Such queer moons we live with instead of dead furniture’ shows Plath’s happiness in making a home for her children that is filled with things they enjoy. Opposition is also used with the words ‘live’ and ‘dead’ showing Plath’s desire for her children to live a happy life.
The poem is filled with references to wild and domesticated animals such as ‘cat’, ‘fish’ and ‘peacock’, which have connotations of freedom, innocence and the need to be loved and cared for, which connotates Plath’s feelings on the life she wants to provide for her children. In the first stanza of Balloons, Plath creates imagery as the balloons are personified by being referred to as ‘they’ and as being ‘soul animals’. Plath’s personification of the balloons gives them life, personality, and a spiritual existence.
This image of the balloons is a manifestation of the ‘soul’ which is linked with being ‘good’ which is how Plath sees her children. The use of onomatopoeia appeals to the senses, childish words such as ‘shriek’ and ‘pop’ which add a comical tone, adding a sense of positivity and a celebratory tone to the relationship she is describing. Here Plath expresses the relationship with herself and her children, and how an age difference can effect and change your feelings and behaviour.
The colours and shapes used such as ‘moons’, ‘oval’ and ‘red’ and ‘blue’ create imagery which appeals to our sense of sight and imagination. Words which are connected to texture are used such as ‘straw’ and ‘silk’ which appeal to our sense of touch. The poem is from her point of view, and she is very much involved in the life depicted. Uncharacteristically for Plath, she uses words which celebrate the senses and the feeling of being alive, a feeling of happiness which is due to her childrens presence.