An Eco Critical Reading Of Philip Larkin Beauchamp College Essay

2057 words - 9 pages

‘Larkin is “less interested in nature for its own sake, than for the opportunities it provides to moralise about the human condition”. To what extent do you agree?’
Larkin’s poetry is renowned for his grave conclusions about the insignificance of humankind in relation to nature, which continues to exist, both despite humanity’s futile efforts to domesticate it, and also long after humans leave the environment upon which they try so hard to make an impact on. His poetry appears to label nature as superior to humanity, unaffected by humanity’s problems and able to reveal the many flaws Larkin sees in society. However, this use of nature to ‘moralise about the human conditions’, as put by Andrew Motion could suggest the Larkin does not regard nature with the same admiration found in his poetry. It is simply an instrument used to reveal the flaws in human society, according to Leo Cox, who suggests 'Larkin uses nature as a medium for discussing his preoccupation with how transient and pointless everything in the world is,' and by using it in this way, it can be argued that Larkin’s poetry is ‘less interested in nature for its own sake’ (Andrew Motion), and more anthropocentric, as humanity remains the centre of his poetry’s message.
In Larkin’s collection, ‘The Whitsun Weddings’, the first poem, ‘Here’, reveals Larkin’s view on the futility of humankind’s attempts to make their mark on nature, and domesticate it in order to allow society to grow into nature’s domain. This failure is explored by highlighting the failure of humanity to expand past the ‘large town’ it has been confined to, and by demonstrating nature’s ability to grow despite human hindrance. The poem is structured in order to make society a fleeting scene in the train journey that Larkin is experiencing. Their status as a ‘surprise’ amongst the ‘skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants’ suggests the limited area that humans have managed to conquer, whilst nature surrounds it, seemingly unaffected by humanity’s attempts to grow into it. The train is described as ‘swerving through fields’, connoting the instability of humanity, with the ‘swerving’ motion created by nature, which has forced humanity to build around it, rather than submissively allowing humankind to build over it. There is a strong focus on the inability of humans to grow past the ‘mortgaged half-built edges’ they have built for themselves, and how their priorities – the ‘slave museum, … consulates, grim head-scarfed wives’ – confine them to society: their lives are dictated by consumerism, politics and religion. This existence is contrasted strikingly to the ‘hidden growth’ that nature experiences, another method used by Larkin to demonstrate the futile attempts to domesticate nature. As the train moves away, Larkin describes the thriving environment, how ‘leaves unnoticed thicken, / Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken’, as ‘luminously-peopled air ascends’. The motifs of growth in the absence...

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