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Larkin Is Misogynist

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  • Category: Marriage

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Larkin is a misogynist who hates marriage and children. Discuss how far you agree. I agree with this statement to some extend but not fully. I think Larkin can come across in these ways however to put a definite label on him would be an assumption. Also I think that by saying he hates children and marriage is too much of a strong statement and perhaps he personally never chose to do these particular things in life or couldn’t understand them. Larkin comes across as a misogynist from the way he presents women as just objects for the purpose of men. For example in the poem ‘For Sidney Bechet’ he writes “sporting-house girls like circus tigers (priced far above rubies)” which is perhaps referring to wild prostitute women who have been tamed, from the way he uses animal imagery with the simile of a circus tiger. The very fact he has made this link with animals could be interpreted as derogatory towards women and in many ways an insult. Furthermore the way in which these men are “grouping round their chairs” gives the impression these men are sitting and perversely watching and choosing these women for their sexual pleasure which undermines women and objectifies them.

Larkin may also be seen as objectifying women in another poem “Wild Oats” where he writes “in my wallet are still two snaps of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.” The way he uses “bosomy” as an adjective referring to the aesthetic qualities of her breasts instead of any genuine compliment on her personality so this comment could be seen as disrespectful. In addition he writes “with fur gloves on” which gives a sexual illusion of this woman, as fur gloves and large breasts are a provocative combination and the fact he has this picture in his wallet seams rather perverse. The fact that the title of the poem itself can be used as a euphemism for sex highlights the idea that perhaps he only sees women as a means for sex. On the other hand, others would argue that the very fact he shows this type of sexual interest in women proves that he is not misogamist seeing as he shows interest and a lust for them. Although it may seem derogatory he is not expressing any hate towards these women but simply appreciating their aesthetic values. The effect this may have could cause women to have a hate towards Larkin but by no means is he hateful towards women.

For example in Wild Oats besides the character of “bosomy rose” he is writing about a genuine relationship with her friend. He writes how he “met beautiful twice” this adjective in many ways compensates for the risqué adjective of “bosomy” and shows how he can be respectful of women. It also could be a way of making a point of how the attraction to the friend, (regardless of the “specs”) was more meaningful than the surface qualities of the “bosomy rose”, therefore through this persona he shows us how he did acquire gentlemanly traits and the capability of love for a woman. He writes how it lasted for “seven years” showing that he had dedication to this love and how he “gave a ten-guinea ring” which is a symbol of commitment and a loving gesture. So overall I think one can deduce from the Poem and from the fact he had various relationships with women in his private life that he is capable of love for women and hence not a misogynist. Larking uses the topic of marriage heavily in his poems and mainly in negative way which gives the reader a strong sense he opposes the idea of marriage. For instance in “the Whitsun Weddings” the persona he writes from clearly has an incomprehensible view on weddings and a confusion towards the tradition. As he views from the window of his train he judges these women, who are part of the wedding, in a negative light when he writes “girls in parodies of fashion, heels and veils” almost making a mockery of their ridiculous outfits for the occasion.

He then writes how this “marked off the girls unreally” which could mean how it made them look cheap and fake. Larkin makes it clear in various other poems such as “here” that he has a hate for consumerism and therefore from the description of these fake materials we are aware that this is a negative thing. He describes the dresses and the cheep fabrics of “nylon” and fake colours “lemons mauves and olives” and from the way he uses foods can be interpreted to have a significant symbolic meaning in the sense that these organic foods become out of date in time, which could be suggesting he has a bitter opinion on marriage that it will soon become dull over time and never last. In the penultimate stanza he writes how “none thought of the others they would never meet or how their lives would all contain this hour” he really expresses Larkin’s view on marriage and commitment, as he appears to feel that marriage limits chances and options it also raises the question as to whether he feared marriage and the change it could have on his life and freedom.

This would suggest that as opposed to hating marriage Larkin merely feared it. The line “ sun destroys the interest of what’s happening in the shade” metaphorically could be interpreted to show how fabulous display of a wedding can “destroy” or distract what happened out of view from the public like the stress, disputes and reality of faults in the relationship. The imagery of the sun also creates a bright beautiful link with weddings that people see on the surface juxtaposed with the reality of dullness as the years go on. In the poem “Self’s the Man” he portrays Man to be more superior to women. His opinion of love’s initial excitement contrasted with the dullness that comes a as result of marriage. For example when he writes “He married a woman to stop her getting away now she’s there all day” showing misogynistic point of view on how women become annoying after a while or you can get bored of them, again giving the sense that Larkin thinks women are just useful for sexual relationships that aren’t too serious and don’t last long.

He also decides only to mention the stereotypical annoying traits of a wife such as; taking the husband’s money- “the money he gets for wasting his life on work she takes as her perk” and nagging the husband to do chores “put a screw in the wall, he has no time at all” and finally the asking for the mother in law to “come for summer.” These thing show how in this poem Larkin is highly biased towards the husband and creates sympathy for the man yet targets the wife as being a user which I feel is misogynistic and shows his hate for marriage. From the way he writes about this husband “Arnold,” being “less selfish than I,” shows us how he regards marriage as being a self sacrifice and something he wouldn’t put himself through- “I’m a better hand at knowing what I can stand.” As Larkin does not agree with the idea of marriage he also shows a negative opinion towards children in his poetry.

In ‘Dockery and Son’ the persona is pondering on why Dockery would decide to have a child, the way he words it “did he get this son at nineteen, twenty?” using “get” as opposed to have, shows how there is no attachment there almost as though a child is just an object, very much like how he appears to view women as objects with no real attachment. He then ends this line with “was he that withdrawn” which expresses how Larkin perhaps thinks one needs to be withdrawn to make such a mistake. Larkin in the fifth stanza writes “why did he think adding meant increase? To me it was dilution,” showing how he is trying to understand and come to terms with Dockery’s reasoning behind his choice, “he must have taken stock of what he wanted” as though a child was an object to “stock” up on and that perhaps this was Dockery’s reasoning. The very fact that Larkin is fascinated by Dockery’s choice to have a child and how he cannot come to reason with why anyone would want to have a child is evidence that in Larkin’s eyes it is a mistake (like he feels about marriage).

Overall I think it is clear from the majority of Larkin’s poetry that he isn’t fond of attachment to anyone else and enjoys independence. Therefore he doesn’t see the reason for commitment of marriage or children, however the interest he shows in other people’s want for children in the poem “Dockery and Son” suggest perhaps he is still confused and is in fear – “life is first boredom, then fear” suggesting he had a boring childhood himself and now fears the changes that having a child would make to his life. I think, although initially negative towards the idea of children he is intrigued and deep down there is an element of doubt in his opinion. As far as marriage is concerned however I think there is no doubt he sees straight through the whole idea and regards it as ruining the fun of a relationship. We know from Larkin’s personal life of having three significant relationships with women in his life that he was not a misogynist, however in his poems he does often include sexist remarks and objectifies women.

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